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Friday, December 11, 2009
Don't You Dare Write a Tom Swifty
Tom Swift was the hero in a series of juvenile science fiction books for boys. Tom solved mysteries and foiled bad guys using his own clever inventions. Typical titles included Tom Swift and His Airship, Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, and Tom Swift and His Sky Racer.
The books featured an odd quirk, called a Tom Swifty, which is a pun linking dialogue and adverbs. Here are some examples:
"Hurry up and get to the back of the ship," Tom said sternly.
"Pass me the shellfish," said Tom crabbily.
"That's the last time I'll stick my arm in a lion's mouth," the lion-tamer said off-handedly.
"Would you like to ride in my new ambulance?" asked Tom hospitably.
Tom’s adverbs telegraph the emotions the writer hopes to evoke. Although used to humorous effect in the Tom Swift books, overusing adverbs usually reveals lame writing.
Let your nouns and verbs show the reader what’s happening. If you use nouns and verbs skillfully, you will have little need for adjectives and adverbs. Your readers are clever enough to figure out how to react emotionally.
My first love was reading, and my second love was writing. Deciding how to string words together fascinates me.
My interests and pursuits are wide ranging. I'm a self-employed educational entrepreneur and book packager. During my career I have worked as a consultant, professor, business owner, author and ghostwriter.