This came to me by way of the Chicago Manual of Style Facebook feed. I’m not going insane–adverbs are declining, enough so that there’s a whole article in The Guardian from last fall!
Read the article here:
Where have all the adverbs gone? And how did they go?
I’m glad to have found an ally with the writer of the article, Maddie York!
To read my original article addressing this phenomenon, read here.
What do you think? Are adverbs overrated, or ignored?
I’m with you on the oddity of people dropping the -ly from adverbs (as in “to speak proper” instead of “to speak properly,” as you point out of your original article, or “slow-roasted pork” instead of “slowly roasted pork,” as the “Guardian” writer points out). That usage amounts to sending in an adjective to do an adverb’s job.
Your question above (“Are adverbs overrated?”) sends me in a different direction: Should writers avoid adverbs in general? I’d say yes and no.
Why do I say yes? Because most adverbs that roll out of our brains in a first draft add no value. You can almost always improve your sentence by deleting words like these: actually, truly, frankly, extremely, definitely, totally, really, simply, literally, basically.
Why do I say no? Because adverbs, creatively used, can add pizzazz. What’s not to love about, say, a fabulously frumpy winter coat? As bestselling writer Arthur Plotnik points out (using an adverb himself to marvelous effect), “joltingly fresh adverbs … are among the hottest locutions in contemporary prose.”*
*_Spunk & Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style_ (New York: Random House, 2007), 37.
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Danielle M. Villegas
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