Yes, I know. I'm being scandalously controversial by even contemplating this post. But I really and truly believe that adverbs are not such a Great Evil Thing. I mean, they were invented for a reason, right? Shouldn't we, as writers, be allowed to use them?
The real Great Evil Thing? Overuse of adverbs. I don't think using them at all is a bad thing. In fact, sometimes it's downright useful.
For example, the following words of dialogue:
"I don't think I can trust you anymore," she said.
Now in many cases, context will provide the reader with the speaker's tone of voice. Knowing the character will help too. But in many other cases, words like these could be said in many different, equally suitable, tones of voice. Is she angry? Is she saying it quietly? Is she saying it sadly? Is she joking, to lighten the mood? Was she angry before but now she's tired and resigned? Without an adverb, it's hard to set the right mood here, it's hard to give the reader a clear picture of the character's thoughts or feelings.
Of course, I could have said
She let out her breath, suddenly tired and resigned. "I don't think I can trust you anymore," she said.
Which gives us the right information without using an adverb. But while this works here, what about this-
She clenched her fists and gritted her teeth and glared. "I don't think I can trust you anymore," she said.
The first sentence just feels clunky and long and unnecessary. Better to say "I don't think I can trust you anymore," she said bitterly, which is more concise and effective (I think).
So yes, adverbs can often be replaced with something else - active description, or nothing at all if the dialogue is clear and suitable - but that doesn't necessarily mean they're the most evil thing to afflict us since writer's block. I think that, used sparingly and effectively, adverbs can make a sentence have a greater impact than it otherwise would.
Fellow writers? What are your two (or a dozen) cents on this?