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


Stephen-King-Quotes

As writers, we are constantly (adverb) told about the misstep of using too many adverbs in our writing. I recently received the book 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.

IMG_0637

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:

sample

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.

Nabokov

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

www.adverbless.com

https://www.cthreepo.com/writing/adverb-detector/

Tell us your results, if you dare.

 

61 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

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  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 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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

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