Want to poke your reader in the eye?
Use an unnecessary adverb.
“I’m so happy to be here!” Lulu said excitedly.
Wasn’t the exclamation point a big enough tip-off, not to mention the so that precedes happy?
The overuse of adverbs usually indicates one of two things.
You don’t trust the reader to “get it” so you are giving them a helpful shove. Or your verb is too generic.
If the adverb modifies a dialogue tag, reread the line spoken by your character. The quote itself should convey the emotion without the help of an adverb.
If your adverb is being used to prop up a weak description, rewrite.
If the adverb is modifying a verb, ie: he walked slowly, replace the colorless verb. He ambled, staggered, limped, dragged, sashayed. All these verbs are descriptive and each carries a different shade of meaning.
But what if no colorful replacement verb exists? There are places in which the English language is inexplicably thin, the verb selection modest.
When it comes to “look”or “smile” the verb shelf is nearly bare. From time to time your characters may have to look longingly or smile sadly. You could suggest longing or sadness through description, but the adverb is more economical.
Take heart! Adverbs do not exist just to lead writers astray.
They shade verbs that need a little help.
They are economical when description becomes cumbersome.
They come in handy when you want to express speed, volume, duration or frequency, ie: The alarm sounded intermittently.
Sometimes the addition of an adverb feels right rhythmically.
And sometimes, heck, you’re just in the mood for a good adverb.
But be selective. In the game called fiction, “I’d like to buy an adverb!” is often a misuse of funds.