Monday, January 27, 2014

Scientists Prove Secret to Writing Bestsellers: Avoid Adverbs

What's the secret to good writing? Scientists have found the answer, and it's not too big a surprise. They did a linguistic analysis on eight hundred classic best-sellers from Project Gutenberg and checked for patterns in the use of grammar and words. The results were very enlightening.
They found several trends that were often found in successful books, including heavy use of conjunctions such as “and” and “but” and large numbers of nouns and adjectives.
To prove the opposite, they trolled some of the worst-selling books on Amazon...and Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. The results:
Less successful work tended to include more verbs and adverbs and relied on words that explicitly describe actions and emotions such as “wanted”, “took” or “promised”, while more successful books favoured verbs that describe thought processes such as “recognised” or “remembered”.
Of course, there are no hard and fast rules for bestsellers. Bad writing is often found in bestsellers (like The Lost Symbol) and good writing is often found in unpopular novels. But I think it's a good rule of thumb for any writer: avoid cliches and adverbs. Thanks, science.

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