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Why you actually need adverbs – really!

August 25, 2016

Matthew Wright

I have to admit I get irritated every so often with the current war on adverbs.

Achtung! Accursed Englander! Achtung! Take zat, you verflucht adverb!

One of the outcomes is that well-meaning but inexperienced editors go through an author’s work slashing out anything that has even the slightest hint of an adverb, as if the author doesn’t know what they are doing (and sometimes the author is way more experienced than the editor).

Another is the proliferation of ‘writing software’ that advertises itself as being able to eliminate those pesky adverbs and ruthlessly highlights any word ending in -ly, for deletion.

So what’s the story? Well, let’s first think about adverbs. They’re a class of words that modify adjectives – ‘usually’, ‘certainly’, ‘undoubtedly’ and (wait for it) ‘yesterday’ among them. If they didn’t exist, we’d have a LOT of trouble writing proper sentences. No adverbial phrases: ‘I did that yesterday’, for instance.

So…

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