Writing Style – A Man of Adverbs

I met a young man who by his conversation and dress gave the impression of someone who could easily climb a career ladder. Then, I read some of his reports and emails.

For the most part, they were a mind dump of things he found interesting in his job. Not only did they require the reader to travel through a meandering stream of information to reach the final point, but the sentences themselves were filled with “fluff.”

He was a man of adverbs. Every verb came with a descriptor that instead of making the thoughts forceful only made them appear bombastic and weak. Projects were “aligned nicely with organizational goals.” Teams would “work actively and co-operatively to support the program.” His unit would be “totally involved in the transition.”

Business writing is all about subjects and verbs. Adverbs and adjectives help to make sentences more interesting, but they should be used with care. In these instances, “nicely,” “actively,” “co-operatively,” and “totally” are not measurable. They don’t add to the meaning.

My young friend would have written more strongly if he had eliminated them all together: Projects were “aligned with organizational goals.” Teams would “work to support the program.” His unit would be “involved in the transition.”

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