Adverbs for Authors Part 2
We (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.
Miss our first blog post on adverbs? Learn How and When to Use Adverbs.
Adverbs can empower your writing or cripple your sentences when they prop up weak verbs.
First, ready for a quick dose of intensive grammar? Intransitive verbs don’t take adverbs.
Ack. Intransitive? What’s that? To remember the meaning of “intransitive,” know its inside story. The prefix “in” means “not.” The root “trans” means “across.” You can’t “carry” an “object” across an intransitive verb. There was house. He sat chair. Those sound goofy with an object after the verb. So was and sat are intransitive. In a dictionary, you’ll see v.i.—meaning “verb intransitive”—after some verbs. That’s a reminder not to plop an object down after those verbs.
Right (Thumbs Up): Mr. Dribnobble lectures endlessly.
Wrong (Thumbs Down): Mr. Dribnobble is endlessly.
Why? The second one sounds weird! Use the adverb “endlessly” to describe how Mr. Dribnobble lectures. Don’t use “endlessly” with a form of the verb “to be.”
√ Bad or Badly?
“Bad” (adjective) describes a noun or pronoun.
Any comedian can have a bad night.
“Badly” (adverb) describes a verb, adjective, or another adverb and tells “how” or “to what extent.”
Right (Thumbs Up): The negotiations went badly.
Wrong (Thumbs Down): The negotiations went bad.
Why? The adverb “badly” shows how the negotiations went.
√ Good or Well?
“Good” is an adjective.
Electric blue is a good color to wear on television.
“Well” is an adverb.
Right (Thumbs Up): Portia sang well at her concert.
Wrong (Thumbs Down): Portia sang good at her concert.
Why? How did she sing? The adverb “well” describes how she sang.
The Big E (Exception): With verbs of the five senses (look, feel, sound, taste, smell), use “bad,” not “badly,” and “good,” not “well.”
Gym socks look bad with a tux. (Not badly.)
Cooked cabbage smells bad. (Not badly.)
The recording sounded good. (Not well.)
Extra Tip: Use “good” and “bad “ with feelings, too. You wouldn’t say you “feel goodly.”
John feels bad about striking out in the baseball game. (Not badly.)
The Grammar Patrol is chagrined to note that “I feel badly” is a common blooper. Say, “I feel bad.” Help us hold the line or we’ll feel bad about losing it!
Tips for Writing:
• Don’t use five adverbs when you can use one.
Egregious example: You truly can easily overuse adverbs, so, actually, seldom is better than often.
Better: Use adverbs sparsely.
• One word instead of two: Use a powerful verb, to avoid using a verb plus an adverb.
Weaker: The old woman walked unsteadily.
Stronger: The old woman hobbled.
Now you have adverbs down perfectly, right?
Stump the Grammar Patrol
The Grammar Patrol welcomes your questions about adverbs. We truly want to hear from you.