In defense of adverbs   7 comments

It’s all the rage in the writing world these days to eschew adverbs. All the ‘How to Write Books’ books talk about it. We’ve got some folks in my writers’ critique group who just red pen every one willy-nilly. ‘Use better verbs!’ goes the battle cry.

I get it. Adverbs can be the crutch of the lazy, qualifying dull verbs that can’t carry the message on their own, or of the terminally over-descriptive, drowning the reader in too much goopy excess. (Eye-shift.)

I really do get it.

But it’s being taken to ridiculous levels.

Instead of pruning judiciously (yes, I plugged that in, even Stephen King says you can use one if you just can’t stand the sentence without it), more and more what I’m seeing is just replacing a perfectly good adverb with an inappropriate adjective.

That’s not good writing. That’s bad grammar.

And it’s friggin’ EVERYWHERE. Not just in ad copy, where decent grammar fled the scene long ago. Not just in newspapers, who no longer bother running a story past a good editor. But even in books, good books, by good authors, who presumably have good editors.

Maybe I missed something. I beat the war drums against my long-time nemesis, the split infinitive, until my friend Jess (who is a librarian and uber-tough grammarian) convinced me of both the futility and the lack of foundation for it.

I was rigorously eddicated in the British school system and it’s hard to give up what was driven so deeply into my pscyhe.

But I can learn. I can grow. I can grasp new concepts. Eventually.

What I can’t get past is ‘Run fast,’ ‘Breathe deep’, ‘Sing loud,’ ‘Type slow’, ‘Drive reckless,’ ‘Pat gentle’ and the like.

Just chopping the ‘ly’ off the gorram adverb does not make it okay.

Using a noun qualifier to qualify a verb is incorrect.

I’m also tired of ‘It sounds funny’ being the reason behind changing grammar.

Yes, language is alive, and it grows and changes and morphs. This is a good thing. But changes to grammatical rules should occur thoughtfully and with due consideration, not simply that the vernacular (which changes rapidly and wildly) doesn’t grasp it.

We may rarely respond to ‘Who’s there?’ with ‘It is I,’ any more, but there’s really no excuse for ‘Me and Dad are going to the tractor pull’ or ‘I was so thrilled when they gave the prize to Mary and I’. Not in the written word. Not even in the spoken word, except as the exception. We don’t need to be grammar Nazis in casual conversation, but I simply cannot countenance lying down for the gross and careless in our published works, even when the publication is a newspaper or online article.

Words are sacred. Treat them as such.

Or expect me to gouge out your eyeballs all vicious like.



Posted October 25, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

7 responses to “In defense of adverbs

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  1. Yet another reason underscoring why I love you so very much, oh sister-of-my-heart!

  2. AUGH! It won’t let me edit my own grammar!!!

  3. Sing it out, Sister of my heart! We learned how to use the various parts of speech correctly when we were in school. English composition is so dumbed down that it is a wonder anyone is competent in the language any more. A certain song from “My Fair Lady” has currently popped up from my dusty files, hehe. Eventually a foreigner of some renown will make a comment about how awful Americans speak and write and we will run around like chickens with our heads cut off. We need some public humiliation. (Though the Gods know we have it in spades with the current administration.)

  4. I liked this muchly.

    I’m with you on this – it’s just lazy grammar in an effort to bond with the masses. There was a beautiful song by some 90s artist I’ve long forgotten – beautiful until he same the line …”made for you and I/for you and I” and I think I physically twitched.

    On a side note, my very British boss at the tea shop used to jokingly say “ooh, you startled I!” or “you made I laugh!”

  5. I know – the whole anti-adverb thing is just kneejerk. Applying a rule blindly is not a sign of superior intellect.

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