WHAT WE THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT.
If you need an adverb you got the wrong verb. Unless you’re William Shakespeare and you’re describing “the most unkindliest cut of all,” you’ll do well to avoid adverbs. They are barnacles on the hull of your composition. They slow you down as your prose glide through the waters of audible meaning. They hitch a ride and eat into the metal of your sentence structure. They make lovely paragraphs ugly and ugly paragraphs uglier.
The English language is simple. Nouns. Verbs. Periods. Exclams. Question marks? Okay. Our beautiful mother tongue, when it sticks to its Anglo-Saxon roots, is a kiss, a club, a sleek sward, an odd bodkin. It says what it means. It slaps. It scratches. It screams. It spits. And it does not utilize or expectorate.
It looks like it sounds. It sounds like it means. It means what it says. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” “Out. Out. Damn. Spot!”
Although fancy-pants English teachers have done much damage by insisting that our innocents learn to use linguistic lace and bows such as “such as,” subordinate clauses, prepositional phrases, silly synonyms, colons, semicolons…rather than demanding that their pupils learn NOT to use them (just say no to modifiers); there is no more damaging hanger-on than the adverb.
The strongest possible sentence structure is noun followed by verb followed by end punctuation. “Jesus wept.” You just can’t misunderstand that. And the more you understand it the more powerful it becomes. What adverb could possibly improve that sentence? Bitterly (hardly appropriate for one who is without sin)? Uncontrollably (not credible for one who is omnipotent)? Compassionately (obvious by the context)? Empathetically (obvious and contorted—just kind of ugly to the ear)? No. There is no adverb that improves the right verb.
So, to young writers, diarists, correspondents, bloggers, posters, pretenders, professionals, veterans, veteranarians, vegetarians, and octogenarians…to everyone who writes here is the pit of the plum:
• Pick your verb with verve and boldness. Then leave it alone. Let it do its damage on it’s own merits.
• Say what you have to say. Write with your ears (not literally). Write for your readers’ ears.
To educators, editors, and self-appointed pickers of nits: stop leading our language astray with all the strange parasites (jargon, junk, pathetically-hipisms, and mostly ADVERBS).
To all, beware. Words ending in “ly” are lying in wait, ready to snatch the power from your sentences.