Use adverbs to change, not intensify, meaning
Beware adverbs, counsels The Poynter Institute’s Roy Peter Clark.
Too often, they dilute the meaning of the verb or repeat it: “The building was completely destroyed.”
Instead, of using adverbs to intensify meaning, Clark suggests, use them to change meaning.
“‘Killing Me Softly’?” he writes. “Good adverb. “‘Killing Me Fiercely’? Bad adverb.”
Same rule applies to adjectives. Note how these change meaning instead of intensifying it:
“Josef studied it, feeling as he sailed toward freedom as if he weighed nothing at all, as if every precious burden had been lifted from him.”
— Michael Chabon, author,
in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
“The combination of a hard-won cynicism, low overhead, an unstintingly shoddy product line, and the American boy’s unassuageable hunger for midget radios, X-ray spectacles, and joy buzzers had enabled Anapol not only to survive the Depression but to keep his two daughters in private school …”
— Michael Chabon, author, in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
“After the coffee he recrossed the room and remained standing, stooped over the keyboard in his overcoat, while he played with both hands by the exhausted afternoon light the notes as he had written them.”
— Ian McEwan, author, in Amsterdam
How can you use adverbs to change, not intensify, meaning?
Source: Roy Peter Clark, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, Little, Brown and Company (September 1, 2006)