Advocating the adverb

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“The road to Hell is paved with adverbs,” writes American author Stephen King. “The adverb is not your friend.”

Few parts of speech have been ostracized as much as the adverb. The mini-modifier has been abused, shot down and cast aside by connoisseurs of the written word for far too long.

In King’s “On Writing,” he says adverbs are used by timid writers who are afraid they are not expressing themselves clearly. I, on the other hand, think the adverb is a mark of a brave writer, an intrepid soul boldly devoted to exploring verb modification.

Adverbs hold a special place in my heart. They are my lexical condiment of choice. A dash of metaphor and a sprinkle of symbolism is all well and good, but an adverb can take an action from bland to bodacious in no time at all.

I grew up in a dark world nearly devoid of adverbs. My mother, an author by trade and journalist at heart, used them sparingly, if at all. Come middle school, I was told to shoot and kill adverbs on sight, and in high school, I was made to understand that adverbs were nothing but verbal clutter.

What’s more, I grew up in a world where Apple encouraged me to “Think different,” and I lived a lie surrounded by signs that told me to “Drive slow.”

Adverbs do not always end in “-ly.” In fact, many do not. The role of the adverb is to diligently describe a verb in terms of manner, place and time. Adverbs clarify verbs and convey information about how something happens, when something happens and to what extent an action occurs.

Adverbs of manner: quickly, suddenly, quietly, perfectly, quite, very

Adverbs of place: upstairs, downtown, inside, anywhere, somewhere

Adverbs of time: during, while, after, before, tomorrow, yesterday

Many writers consciously excise adverbs from their work, apparently operating under the illusion that the absence of adverbs makes for better, more concise writing.

I firmly believe that adverbs are an essential part of English and a must-have for any language aficionado. Adverbs are important quite simply because an adverb can do things that other parts of speech cannot.

I encourage those who shudder at the sight of an “-ly” suffix or cringe when two adverbs are daringly, intentionally used in succession to give adverbs a second chance — because when used tastefully, properly and with discretion, an adverb can be the difference between “answering the question on the midterm” and “answering the question on the midterm correctly.”

Contact Maya Eliahou at [email protected].