“The Road to Hell is Paved With Adverbs” – Stephen King – What do the numbers say?


As writers, we are constantly (adverb) told about the misstep of using too many adverbs in our writing. I recently received the bookย Nabakov’s Favorite Word is Mauve, by Ben Blatt which has the first attempt to quanitfy adverb usage by authors recognized as the masters of the craft that I have seen.

So, being a numbers person, I was drawn to this article and wanted to see how my own writing stacked up to the masters in this area.

Did Stephen King live up to his quote? The book found that, out of the voluminous novels (51) that King has written, his rate of adverb usage (strictly the ones ending in ‘ly’)is about 101 per 10,000 words or right around 1%. Ernest Hemingway, who also extolled the evils of adverbs, lived up to his claim with only 80 adverbs per 10,000 words over his 10 novels. That’s only .8%.

Shown below is a chart that I found in Blatt’s book that compares a number of popular novelists and their adverb usage number per 10,000 words.


Adverbs may not be an indicator of writing ability or quality, but you can see by this list that Ernest Hemingway practiced what he preached and other authors, like E.L. James almost doubled the use of adverbs per 10,000 words.

What does this mean for you and I? Well, I’m glad you asked. I found a tool online that will go through a sample of your writing and highlight the adverbs. This chart above only counted the ‘ly’ types of adverbs which is certainly not all of them. I put my nearly 3,000 words story, Channel 19, through this tool and here are the results:


This is a partial screen shot of the result. For a story of 2,951 words, I had 26 ‘ly’ adverbs. That’s a .88% rate. Not too shabby. I’m between Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King’s rate of adverb usage. Extrapolated to 10,000 words, that comes out to about 88 adverbs, between Amy Tan and John Steinbeck.

If only my sales were up in that area.

If you want to check out the book, You can find it HERE.


Also, if you want to run your own work through a quick tool, here are a couple you can try:



Tell us your results, if you dare.


71 thoughts on ““The Road to Hell is Paved With Adverbs” – Stephen King – What do the numbers say?

  1. My editor contends I make him work too hard and this is one of the reasons! So, I took the first chapter of a 60k book and I had 65 adverbs in 3979 words or .016%. I’m shocked! And so will he be. I’m sure he’ll consider it farcical and a product of an accidental writer! Thanks loads. I really, really appreciated the links, too. Truly ~ MW

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Curated Content for Writers – August 11, 2017 | Story Empire

  3. Fascinating, though I would also dispute some of the words counted.
    Taking the full set, I come out between Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling (1.37%). Taking only the ‘ly’ words, I do better than Hemmingway (0.76%).
    I guess I’ll take somewhere in the middle as a more realistic count, and I’m happy with that ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: “The Road to Hell is Paved With Adverbs” – Stephen King – What do the numbers say? | Campbells World

  5. Pingback: Don’t Use Exclamation Points in Your Writing!!! | Author Don Massenzio

  6. Pingback: Gender in Writing Style | Author Don Massenzio

  7. Pingback: Writer, Heal Thyself! | Author Don Massenzio

  8. Pingback: Simplicity in Writing | Author Don Massenzio

  9. Pingback: U.K. vs. U.S. Writing Style and Word Usage | Author Don Massenzio

  10. Pingback: Avoiding Cliches – The Name of the Game or Making a Mountain out of a Mole Hill? | Author Don Massenzio

  11. Pingback: Book Covers – Does Size Matter? | Author Don Massenzio

  12. Pingback: Book Length in a Series – Does it matter? | Author Don Massenzio

  13. Pingback: Beginnings – How do famous writers stack up? | Author Don Massenzio

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s