The Adverb is the Devil

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” ~ Stephen King

“Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer.” ~ Mark Twain

About a month ago, I wrote about the demise of the apostrophe and the abuse of the semicolon. Now I find myself defending the adverb.

The adverb is a legitimate part of speech. It has more responsibilities than any other part of speech: to describe adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs.

Can’t say I really agree with the following article, but it is an interesting read.

Why Adverbs Are Weak and How They Weaken Your Writing

Posted by Melissa Donovan (http://www.writingforward.com/writing-tips/writing-tips-abolish-adverbs)

Here’s a list of 3732 adverbs. The vast majority of them end in -ly, and these are among the most useless adverbs although they are often cited as examples. Ask someone how to identify an adverb and they’ll either tell you it modifies a verb or it’s one of those words that ends in -ly. Why are adverbs that end in -ly so awful? I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look at an example sentence:

“Why don’t you come over here and sit by me?” she asked flirtatiously.

It’s a horrid sentence. The adverb flirtatiously is practically an insult to readers. It tells them how she asked the question when instead, it should show how she asked:

“Why don’t you come over here and sit by me?” she asked, batting her eyelashes.

It may not be the greatest sentence ever written, but showing the character batting her eyelashes is a lot better than telling readers she asked a question flirtatiously.

Most adverbs either tell us what we already know or use too many words to communicate an image or idea. Let’s look at an adverb that modifies an adjective:

It’s a very warm day.

Once we write that a day is warm, does it being very warm change the day in the reader’s mind? The word very does nothing other than intensify the word that follows it and it does so poorly. Often, the word very and the word it modifies can both be eliminated and replaced with a single word that is more precise:

It’s a hot day.

In this sentence, we don’t need the word very or the word warm. The word hot does the job. It’s clearer and more concise, which is the mark of strong writing.

I do agree with this article by Wendy Burt-Thomas (http:www.netplaces.com/creative-writing/word-usage-pitfalls/weak-nouns-verbs-adjectives-and-adverbs.htm

Adverbs clarify, telling how, when, where, and to what extent, giving readers valuable information for picture making.

Like adjectives, adverbs can be overused when writers rely on them for detail instead of using a strong verb. But when used sparingly, they can liven up sleepy sentences and layer meaning. For example, if you wrote, “It was precisely 8:30 when Aiko opened the door to the small man carrying a rain-soaked briefcase,” the adverb precisely makes was more interesting and more specific, and also adds a particular tone to the sentence: We think of the scene as being carefully arranged, and Aiko as a precise and measured person. If you wrote, “It was early morning when Aiko opened the door to the small man carrying a rain-soaked briefcase,” you would establish a different tone and set a slightly different scene. Precise, vivid wording makes all the difference in your writing.

So perhaps instead of killing off words or making them taboo, we should embrace them. You don’t just go out and throw your money away to make a point. Don’t throw your words away either. We need them for communication. Choose your words wisely.  The narrower our vocabularies become, the narrower our minds become.

The adverb is not the Devil.


What size should a children’s book be?

Here’s a great article I’m reblogging.

FAQS | What size should I illustrate for children’s books?

By heather at 9:34 pm on Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Question : Is there a preferred size to illustrate children’s books?

Answer : I’ve found is that size varies from publisher to publisher. Happily, if your manuscript is picked up by a publisher, they will let you know what sizes are available to you. This goes the same for self-publishers, who are able to give a good rate to authors for printing books because they have a standard cookie-cutter size they work with.

A very helpful editor over at Omnibus Books gave the advice at a children’s book writing seminar that it is very unusual to receive finished illustrations with a manuscript. She went on to say that it is even discouraged because of the uncomfortable situation that can arise when the story is literary genious and the illustrations are scribble, or the illustrations are masterpieces and the story is dribble!

With that advice in mind, if you wish to submit a manuscript with illustrations, I would lean towards only sending in sketches and perhaps one finished illustration (as a sample) with your manuscript to a publisher.

That being said, there are many talented aspiring writer/illustrators out there… and to you I would give the advice to just illustrate larger than you hope the book will be, and paint extra bleed (trim) around the illustration. That way if your story is picked up by a pubisher, there is flexibility to scale down and trim the illustrations as needed.

You can find more tips on how to illustrate a children’s book here. And if you have any questions about children’s book illustration or publishing, feel free to post your questions in the comment section.

Filed under: childrens books, business of illustration, FAQS


Ask Turtle Monkey

Sad about moving? Scared about going to a new school? Nervous about finding  new friends?

Turtle Monkey encounters all these experiences with a fresh new sense of humor.

Turtle Monkey and the Big Move is  the first book in the hilarious series by Jo Fontana.

Get yours soon and collect them all. Book 2 is on its way. Ever had an upset stomach? Then you’ll be delighted with Turtle Monkey and the Unfriendly Mushrooms.

Appropriate for all children with a sense of humor and adventure.

If you liked Captain Underpants and Every Dinosaur Poops, you will fall in love with Turtle Monkey and follow her adventures.

Buy at Amazon.

Buy at Barnes and Noble.

Buy at Apple iTunes

To find out more about Turtle Monkey, see Jo Fontana’s Blog at crystalpublishingllc.com

Join the Turtle Monkey Fan Club and get your own Turtle Monkey!

Art by Dion Weichers.



During the Christmas season, why sing the same old songs?

During the Christmas season, why sing the same  old songs?

Sing along to Turtle Monkey’s own unique version of the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Hold your breath. Bet you can’t do it without gasping for air!

The Turtle Monkey series is the highly imaginative product of Jo Fontana, a quirky writer with a quirky sense of humor. She wrote this series to entertain her daughter. Turtle Monkey began as a real stuffed animal, BUT she has taken on a life of her own—-and what a life it is!

Buy at Amazon.

Buy at Barnes and Noble.

Buy at Apple iTunes

To find out more about Turtle Monkey, see Jo Fontana’s Blog at crystalpublishingllc.com

Caution: the easily offended need not apply.

Join the Turtle Monkey Fan Club and get your own Turtle Monkey!

Cover art by Dion Weichers and Illustrations by Chelsea Glanz.


Turtle Monkey is on the loose!

Turtle Monkey is on the loose!  Be sure to watch for her. The Turtle Monkey series by Jo Fontana is about a green monkey and how she deals with the everyday problems of a child with a sense of humor. In The Big Move, TM has to move, go to a new school, and find new friends.

The Twelve Days of Christmas is simply a quirky sing-along but with TM’s unusual perspective.

The series features the art of Dion Weichers and Chelsea Glantz. Now available in electronic versions on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks.


Turtle Monkey! Let the Fun Begin

Turtle Monkey is on the loose!  Be sure to watch for her.

The Turtle Monkey series by Jo Fontana is about a green monkey and how she deals with the everyday problems of a child with a sense of humor.

In The Big Move, TM has to move, go to a new school, and find new friends.

The Twelve Days of Christmas is simply a quirky sing-along but with TM’s unusual perspective.

The series features the art of Dion Weichers and Chelsea Glantz.

Now available in electronic versions on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks.


40 Incorrectly Used Words That Can Make You Look Dumb

Jeff Haden

Jeff HadenInfluencer

Ghostwriter, Speaker, Inc. Magazine Contributing Editor

40 Incorrectly Used Words That Can Make You Look Dumb

While I like to think I know a little about business writing, I still fall into a few word traps. (Not to mention a few cliché traps.)

Take the words “who” and “whom.” I rarely use “whom” when I should — even when spell check suggests “whom” I think it sounds pretentious. So I use “who.”

And then I sound dumb.

Just like one misspelled word can get your resume tossed onto the “nope” pile, one incorrectly used word can negatively impact your entire message. Fairly or unfairly, it happens — so let’s make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

Adverse and averse

Adverse means harmful or unfavorable: “Adverse market conditions caused the IPO to be poorly subscribed.” Averse refers to feelings of dislike or opposition: “I was averse to paying $18 a share for a company that generates no revenue.”

But hey, feel free to have an aversion to adverse conditions.

Affect and effect

Verbs first. Affect means to influence: “Impatient investors affected our roll-out date.” Effect means to accomplish something: “The board effected a sweeping policy change.”

How you use effect or affect can be tricky. For example, a board can affect changes by influencing them and can effect changes by directly implementing them. Bottom line, use effect if you’re making it happen, and affect if you’re having an impact on something that someone else is trying to make happen.

As for nouns, effect is almost always correct: “Once he was fired he was given 20 minutes to gather his personal effects.” Affect refers to an emotional state, so unless you’re a psychologist you probably have little reason to use it.

Bring and take

Both have to do with objects you move or carry. The difference is in the point of reference: you bring things here and you take them there. You ask people to bring something to you, and you ask people to take something to someone or somewhere else.

“Can you bring an appetizer to John’s party”? Nope.

Compliment and complement

Compliment means to say something nice. Complement means to add to, enhance, improve, complete, or bring close to perfection.

I can compliment your staff and their service, but if you have no current openings you have a full complement of staff. Or your new app may complement your website.

For which I may decide to compliment you.

Criteria and criterion

“We made the decision based on one overriding criteria,” sounds fairly impressive but is also wrong.

Remember: one criterion, two or more criteria. Or just use “reason” or “factors” and you won’t have to worry about getting it wrong.

Discreet and discrete

Discreet means careful, cautious, showing good judgment: “We made discreet inquiries to determine whether the founder was interested in selling her company.”

Discrete means individual, separate, or distinct: “We analyzed data from a number of discrete market segments to determine overall pricing levels.” And if you get confused, remember you don’t use “discretion” to work through sensitive issues; you exercise discretion.

Elicit and illicit

Elicit means to draw out or coax. Think of elicit as the mildest form of extract. If one lucky survey respondent will win a trip to the Bahamas, the prize is designed to elicit responses.

Illicit means illegal or unlawful, and while I suppose you could elicit a response at gunpoint … you probably shouldn’t.

Farther and further

Farther involves a physical distance: “Florida is farther from New York than Tennessee.” Further involves a figurative distance: “We can take our business plan no further.”

So, as we say in the South (and that “we” has included me), “I don’t trust you any farther than I can throw you,” or, “I ain’t gonna trust you no further.”

Fewer and less

Use fewer when referring to items you can count, like “fewer hours” or “fewer dollars.”

Use “less” when referring to items you can’t (or haven’t tried to) count, like “less time” or “less money.”

Imply and infer

The speaker or writer implies, which means to suggest. The listener or reader infers, which means to deduce, whether correctly or not.

So I might imply you’re going to receive a raise. And you might infer that a pay increase is imminent. (But not eminent, unless the raise will somehow be prominent and distinguished.)

Insure and ensure

This one’s easy. Insure refers to insurance. Ensure means to make sure.

So if you promise an order will ship on time, ensure that it actually happens. Unless, of course, you plan to arrange for compensation if the package is damaged or lost — then feel free to insure away.

(While there are exceptions where insure is used, the safe move is to use ensure when you will do everything possible to make sure something happens.)

Irregardless and regardless

Irregardless appears in some dictionaries because it’s widely used to mean “without regard to” or “without respect to”… which is also what regardless means.

In theory the ir-, which typically means “not,” joined up with regardless, which means “without regard to,” makes irregardless mean “not without regard to,” or more simply, “with regard to.”

Which probably makes it a word that does not mean what you think it means.

So save yourself a syllable and just say regardless.

Number and amount

I goof these up all the time. Use number when you can count what you refer to: “The number of subscribers who opted out increased last month.” Amount refers to a quantity of something that can’t be counted: “The amount of alcohol consumed at our last company picnic was staggering.”

Of course it can still be confusing: “I can’t believe the number of beers I drank,” is correct, but so is, “I can’t believe the amount of beer I drank.” The difference is you can count beers, but beer, especially if you were way too drunk to keep track, is an uncountable total and makes amount the correct usage.

Precede and proceed

Precede means to come before. Proceed means to begin or continue. Where it gets confusing is when an –ing comes into play. “The proceeding announcement was brought to you by…” sounds fine, but preceding is correct since the announcement came before.

If it helps, think precedence: anything that takes precedence is more important and therefore comes first.

Principal and principle

A principle is a fundamental: “Our culture is based on a set of shared principles.” Principal means primary or of first importance: “Our startup’s principal is located in NYC.” (Sometimes you’ll also see the plural, principals, used to refer to executives or relatively co-equals at the top of a particular food chain.)

Principal can also refer to the most important item in a particular set: “Our principal account makes up 60% of our gross revenues.”

Principal can also refer to money, normally a sum that was borrowed, but can be extended to refer to the amount you owe — hence principal and interest.

If you’re referring to laws, rules, guidelines, ethics, etc., use principle. If you’re referring to the CEO or the president (or an individual in charge of a high school), use principal.

Slander and libel

Don’t like what people say about you? Like slander, libel refers to making a false statement that is harmful to a person’s reputation.

The difference lies in how that statement is expressed. Slanderous remarks are spoken while libelous remarks are written and published (which means defamatory tweets could be considered libelous, not slanderous).

Keep in mind what makes a statement libelous or slanderous is its inaccuracy, not its harshness. No matter how nasty a tweet, as long as it’s factually correct it cannot be libelous. Truth is an absolute defense to defamation; you might wish a customer hadn’t said something derogatory about your business… but if what that customer said is true then you have no legal recourse.

And now for those dreaded apostrophes:

It’s and its

It’s is the contraction of it is. That means it’s doesn’t own anything. If your dog is neutered (the way we make a dog, however much against his or her will, gender neutral), you don’t say, “It’s collar is blue.” You say, “Its collar is blue.”

Here’s an easy test to apply. Whenever you use an apostrophe, un-contract the word to see how it sounds. Turn it’s into it is: “It’s sunny,” becomes, “It is sunny.”

Sounds good to me.

They’re and their

Same with these: They’re is the contraction for they are. Again, the apostrophe doesn’t own anything. We’re going to their house, and I sure hope they’re home.

Who’s and whose

Whose password hasn’t been changed in six months?” is correct. Use the non-contracted version of who’s, like, “Who is (the non-contracted version of who’s) password hasn’t been changed in six months?” and you sound a little silly.

You’re and your

One more. You’re is the contraction of you are. Your means you own it; the apostrophe in you’re doesn’t own anything.

For a long time a local nonprofit displayed a huge sign that said, “You’re Community Place.”

Hmm. “You Are Community Place”? No, probably not.

Now it’s your turn: any words you’d like to add to the list?