Simple Trick Strengthens Copy

Want to make your copy stronger with one simple “trick”?

Eliminate all the adverbs.

What's an adverb?

It's a word – often ending in the letters “ly” – that modifies a verb (or even adjectives or adverbial phrases). Examples of adverbs: quickly, instantly, amazingly, powerfully.

If you find the above passage puzzling, don't worry about it; just go through your copy and try to eliminate as many of those “ly” words as you can. Here's an example:

“Quickly and easily motivate clients to buy stuff.”

~ becomes ~

“Motivate clients to buy stuff.”

Now you may be tempted to ask: “But Ray, I want them to know it happens quickly and easily!”

No problem. Just be specific.

“Motivate clients to buy stuff starting the minute you install the software, without any extra effort on your part.”

You may need to do a bit of rewriting to make the copy flow without the adverbs, but your language will be stronger and more persuasive for the effort.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Thanks for this. I am so guilty of using adverbs.
    Excellent example above. Off to do some rewriting… 🙂

  • donniebryant

    Good meat and potatoes advice. Sometimes adverb-ridden hype comes off as hype or puffery. When you catch me using them, it's usually a sign of laziness. As always, thanks, Ray.

  • Patrick Copeland

    hey thanks! this is a great tip. i just finished up a job where i was having some trouble cutting out the fluff and this idea is definitely useful. ive also found that that “that” can be eliminated 99% of the time. just a thought. 🙂
    write fearlessly, edit ruthlessly!