Hunt Down Adverbs with a Macro

by C.K. MacLeod

...the road to hell is paved with adverbs and I will shout it from the rooftops.

~Steven King


Do you use -ly words in your writing? Do you use them with the dialogue tags he said and she said?

Example: "Who do you think you are?" she said arrogantly.

According to author Steven King, using adverbs in your writing, particularly with dialogue tags, can be a problem.

You can hunt down -ly adverbs with a macro. Karen Woodward has good multipurpose -ly macro, or you can insert your own list of -ly words in the macro script below (I've gotten you started). The Reading Teacher's Book of Lists, by Edward Bernard Fry et al. has a fabulous list of adverbs commonly used with dialogue tags.

Copy the macro from Sub to End Sub and paste it into Word's Visual Basic Application (VBA). Word will highlight all of the adverbs in bright green.

Sub lyWords()
' Highlights -ly words used in tags
' Written by Roger Mortis, revised by Subcortical, adapted by Jami Gold and tweaked by C.K. MacLeod
Dim range As range
Dim i As Long
Dim TargetList
TargetList = Array( "angrily", "cautiously", "happily", "sadly",  "unhappily")

For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList)

Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdBrightGreen
End With
End Sub

Remember to use judgement with the results of any macro. This macro will highlight -ly words, but only you can decide if each word is helping or hindering your writing.

Not sure what a macro is? See this post for an explanation. See also the videos for adding a macro and running a macro in Microsoft Word 2010.

What do you do with the highlighted words this macro finds? See Carla Douglas' post at the Beyond Paper Editing blog for suggestions.

Image by Quinn Dombrowski