The Lowly Adverb
It is so sad, but the adverb, contrary to what I was led to believe as a child, is a thing of plague and ridicule. Notice the ‘so,’ in the sentence above. It tries, in a pathetic way, to explain just how sad it is. But look. It is not needed if I change ‘sad’ to ‘woeful.’ Very true. Beef up the verb and the lowly adverb can crawl away into the cave where it was meant to spend its life.
I am not mourning its going. I am merely irritated why we have these worthless things hanging around in our dictionaries, schools and books in the first place. Shouldn’t we have been slapped silly whenever we used them while we were learning the basics of writing? Shouldn’t they have been kept locked in a vault so we never would learn them in the first place? Shouldn’t they be listed as an illegal word?
Au contraire. We were given gold stars at a time in life when carving out these warts of the English language would have been easy. Now. Well. Let’s just say I have developed a fetish for them that is going to take more than 50 Shades to get rid of. Sigh. Please let me list a few, so I can see them on the printed page one last time. I’ll just choose one for each letter of the alphabet:
absolutely, blissfully, courageously, down, eagerly, fondly, greatly, how, intently, just, knowingly, less, madly, nevertheless, once, politely, quite, respectfully, somewhat, too, uselessly, very, warmly, (is there an adverb that starts with x?), yearly, zanily.
Most everything that has an ‘ly’ added to the end must go. Die. Be gone. Disappear. Why have them in the first place? Can’t we just rip them out of word lists so we are not tempted to try them on for size in our writing? Mark Twain insisted that they die. Steven King thinks the road to hell is paved with them. I’ve been down that road a few times.
If you look through this post, you will find them. I am trying to train myself to ignore their siren call. But it is so very impossibly hard. Oooops! It is extremely difficult. Ooooops! It is difficult to find just the verb to show you what I mean. It takes time to look something up in my worn Thesaurus to intensify the verb rather than allowing little adverbs to carry the sentence, like ants carrying away my piece of cake. In other words, I am lazy. And that makes my writing lazy.
I understand the concept, but I love words. Any words. I tend to take too many to tell a story. Give me a 500 word story, and I can tell it to you in 2,352 words. If you’re lucky. The idea that some words are not worth celebrating is a concept I’d rather not think about. But I must.
And so. Tonight, as I finish the rewrite and subsequent edit, I have made a list of all the unnecessary adverbs that have given their life for the project. They feel unappreciated, used and discarded. I will cry over their graves.