I’ve got myself in a bit of a muddle this week and I’m having a brain freeze about adverbs – the ones ending in ly.
The dilemma arose when I had a poem returned which had been submitted for feedback. Part of the feedback had red rings circled around two adverbs ending in ly. One of the ly words had the comment “adverb” next to it and later in the poem another ly word was outlined with “oh there goes another one.”
Having considered the feedback at length I was satisfied the two words in question were appropriate for the pace and context of the poem and the only (apologies for that one) reason they were being outlawed was for being adverbs.
With most creative writing texts, there is consensus that adverbs should be used with caution. William Zinsser in his book, Writing Well, states “most adverbs are unnecessary” and Stephen King takes the point further by suggesting “the road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
Listen to conversations and the spoken word, on both television and radio, and words ending in ly appear to be commonplace. Therefore, if ly words are a regular part of language why do they cause so much consternation when they appear in print?
Take this quote from A.O. Scott about the late Robin Williams, “Mr. Williams was one of the most explosively, exhaustingly, prodigiously, verbal comedians who ever lived.”
Or this famous haiku from Kobayashi Issa;
Climb Mount Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!
Both packed with adverbs, and in my opinion, all bringing depth and feeling to the writing and conversation.
Therein lies the dilemma. What is a wordsmith to do with adverbs?
Any advice would be GRATEFULLY received.