Tuesday, December 13, 2011

An Advocate for Adverbs

The Atlantic recently posted an article by Lily Rothman, Why I am Proudly, Strongly, and Happily in Favor of Adverbs, advocating for the much-maligned part of speech.  Some highlights:

It's not that adverbs aren't often unnecessary… It's that adverbs are no guiltier than any other part of speech. A noun can be nonsense. A verb can be vague. A preposition can be improper. An adjective can be antiquated. A conjunction can be confusing. Even if English speakers have a tendency to misuse adverbs, that doesn't mean they're evil. Some—those that help the current move "ceaselessly" at the end of The Great Gatsby or the crew of the starship Enterprise go "boldly"—are downright great.

The only way to learn the difference is from the supreme writing teacher: reading. Reading great books, great magazines, great blogs—and reading a lot—allows you to internalize what works and what doesn't. Read great sentences until you can tell when one isn't. Read great paragraphs until their rhythms get stuck in your head.

Only by reading can you know when an adverb belongs in a phrase and when it belongs in the trash. Then you can write beautifully. You can write masterfully. You can write cleanly.

Rothman's point about the relationship between reading and writing is well-taken.  As for the adverb debate, I will simply, perhaps wisely, stay on the sideline.

hat tip: Ben Opipari



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