I stand before you today (okay, actually I’m probably sitting as you read this, but that sounds far less dramatic) in defense of what I think is an unfairly maligned piece of our language: the adverb.
Other than the announcement that Snooki from The Jersey Shore had published a novel, I know of no other literary topic that evokes as much scorn as adverbs. Avoid them, we are taught. They are bad. They weaken your writing. They cause cavities, give you bad hair days, and are responsible for most of society’s woes. Every time you use an adverb, God kills a fluffy little bunny.
Not so, I say. And I think it’s high time that we give these poor words a break. I know this isn’t a popular stance, but I ask you to hear me out. Not because I’m particularly fond of adverbs – I’m not. But I’m no less fond of them than any other part of speech. Because that’s just it: I can’t accept that any particular part of speech is better (or stronger, or whatever) than another. Communication is complex; I think we need ALL these parts of speech to give us the widest possible expressive range.
I mean, I can’t see a painter always omitting a specific group of colors from her palette, nor a musician avoiding a specific set of musical notes or chords. Those colors and notes may not fit nicely everywhere, but there are bound to be times when they’re needed. I submit that it’s the same with adverbs (or prepositions, or any other part of speech we could single out). They’re all just words. Why avoid entire classes of those words?
Yet that is what we are taught to do, often in the form of writing “rules” handed down to us by very accomplished authors, journalists, and professors. And since those people are speaking from a position of authority, it’s hard to oppose them – after all, they must know what they’re doing, right? As a result, many of us simply accept these rules without question, and evangelize these rules to other writers.
And then an insidious thing begins to happen. [Read more…]