Writing 101, Day Eight: Death to Adverbs

Today’s prompt: Go to a public location and make a detailed report of what you see. The twist of the day? Write the post without adverbs.

The Corpse

I strolled to the beach front to have breakfast. The coffee shop I had planned to go to was closed, so I walked on to the next one. I stepped along the floorboards wobbling on the sand, and sat at a table facing the sea. I drank my coffee and ate my toast, while listening to the breaking waves. I checked the customers, looking around for information to complete my assignment, and decided they looked northern European, no doubt searching for a respite to their protracted winter. It was then I saw a swimming trunk, floating by the shore. I fixed my gaze on it for some seconds because it seemed odd, and I had been trained to check things which looked out of place. I noticed there was something attached to it — a body!

‘Call an ambulance! There’s someone floating in the water!” I shouted.

The other guests screamed, discarded their food, and followed me to the spot where I had seen the corpse. My walk had ended. It was back to work for me, I sighed, as I called my colleagues at the Police Department.

End of todays’s assignment.

Have a look at some of the other posts!

 

I think adjectives and adverbs should be carefully chosen, but I am sure as a linguist, an English teacher, a reader, and a writer, that they definitely have their place, in all types of written discourse.

However, for the sake of following today’s assignment, the previous version was ‘adverbless’ and almost without adjectives, too. If you want some more, the following is another version with many more adjectives and adverbs.

Which do you prefer? and Why?

The Corpse

I strolled to the beach front to have a long, lazy breakfast, on my first free Sunday morning for weeks. The coffee shop I had planned to go to was closed, so I walked on to the next available one with a free table. I stepped along the wooden floorboards wobbling on the uneven sand and sat at a sunny table facing the sea. I drank my coffee and ate my toast while listening to the soothing swish of the breaking waves. I checked the other early risers on the neighbouring tables distractedly, looking around for information to complete my assignment, and decided they looked mostly northern European, no doubt searching for a warm respite to their chilly spring.

I looked back to the sea. It was then I saw an inflated swimming trunk floating aimlessly by the shore. I fixed my gaze on it for some seconds because it seemed odd, there, and I had been trained to check things which looked out of place. Seconds later I noticed there was something attached to it… a body!

‘Call an ambulance. Now! There’s someone floating in the water!” I shouted franticly.

The other guests screamed, discarded their food, and followed me to the spot where I had seen the corpse. So much for my quiet, peaceful morning walk. It was back to work for me, I sighed, as I called my unsuspecting colleagues at the local Police Department.

15 thoughts on “Writing 101, Day Eight: Death to Adverbs

  1. I’d say the first version is closer to a report, and the second has more personal perception, so I prefer the second one. But to be fair, you don’t use many adverbs at all, you add adjectives mostly, so both versions fit the assignment. 😉

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  2. This was a great idea, to let us compare the two versions… if I was scanning the news, I’d want the first version. But if I was wanting to become immersed in a story “just for fun,” I’d prefer the second version. Seeing the corpse floating “aimlessly” in the water and hearing you shout “frantically” painted a more exciting picture for me!

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    1. Thanks for answering my question. It does depend on personal taste. While most readers seem to prefer the second, there’s a lot of emphasis now on ‘lean writing’. I don’t like cliché writing, but I enjoy creativity and poetic narratives, I like to sift and sort myself. I like to give the reader just a tiny bit more… which usually contains a great deal of implicit information… I suppose it boils down to a question of balance…as most things in life!

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  3. If I had read them independently they would both be good; put together and I prefer the pithiness of the first. The drama the piece conveys needs no descriptive prompting beyond the facts. Musing slightly, had the piece been more about, say, the Northern Europeans (which is itself an interesting exercise in description and triggering our imaginations) and maybe some suspicion your felt, a mood or an atmosphere then I suspect you would struggle without additional descriptive tools. Excellent, thought-provoking stuff, mind.

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  4. I like the second one better. However, I noticed many of the things you cut out weren’t adverbs, so I think you can probably meet somewhere in the middle with eliminating adverbs and still being descriptive.

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  5. They are both well written, but personally I prefer the second one. I love the extra information and added descriptive words. It just hooks me more. Though I think I tend to get wordy at times too so that may color my response 🙂

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