The Venerable Adverb

Ah, the adverb. That lovable, useful, highly overused addition to our sentences. How controversial they are. How lovely, and yet how cumbersome they can be.

It was actually adverbs that got me thinking about starting this little project. Not so much their use or overuse (which can be a hot topic, methinks), but their placement.

As I was writing some of my recent Protaga-posts (eeew, I won't be using that cobbled-together word again), I found myself occasionally lapsing into an old habit that one of my writing instructors tried to beat out of me (not literally, you understand; she was actually quite nice). I found myself -- cue dramatic music -- separating the adverb from its verb!

For example:

Edward moved down the hall silently.

This, according to my mentor (yes, that's what she was) is a no-no. The sentence should read:

Edward moved silently down the hall.

It actually sounds better, doesn't it. How about this version?

Edward silently moved down the hall.

Well, it doesn't separate the adverb from the verb, but it certainly doesn't sound as nice as the previous version.

Now, there are times when you have to put the adverb first. For example, you wouldn't say:

Shelly picked carefully up the mug of coffee.

No. Not cool. You're actually splitting the verb ("pick up") in two. I think that qualifies as a compound verb. Correct me if I'm wrong.

You wouldn't even say:

Shelly picked up carefully the mug of coffee.

That sounds only slightly less cumbersome. You'd say instead:

Shelly carefully picked up the mug of coffee.

Now, you could say:

Shelly picked up the mug of coffee carefully.

But then my mentor would find you and beat with a rubber hose.

I think that'll do for now.

Talk amongst yourselves...

The End

13 comments about this work Feed