Poor old adverbs. They’re under attack on at least two fronts. At this rate, there won’t be any left. Sadly.
First, it’s happening by accident. I just wrote ‘first’ instead of ‘firstly’ and hardly anyone will mind. (If you do mind, hello! Let’s be friends!)
Second, or rather secondly, people with every respect for written English are culling adverbs on purpose. Sub-editors and creative writing tutors are cheerfully chopping adverbs wherever they find them. Why? Adverbs are a classic way of telling your audience what’s happening, rather than showing them for themselves. An example:
“That hardly seems fair,” she said, angrily.
Might be replaced with: “What? That’s outrageous!” she said.
In the second line, you know she’s angry from the syntax, vocabulary and punctuation. You don’t need to wait for the ‘angrily’; you’ve already felt her anger yourself. Sorry, adverb, we don’t need you today. Report again, same time tomorrow.
The thinking is that if you’ve thought enough about your verb, you shouldn’t need an adverb. True, true. But sometimes a well-considered adverb is just what you need to jolly a sentence along.
I’d hate adverbs to disappear completely. Take the famous Star Trek line: to boldly go. It’s usually used in arguments about split infinitives, but where would it be without that glorious adverb?
You could say: to venture. But that would just be wrong.
So, how should a copywriter use adverbs in this day and age? Sparingly.
Do you cut adverbs on principle? When do you use them? Will you miss them when they’re gone?