Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Adverb Always Follows the Verb

I’m working my way backwards through William Safire’s satiric rules for writers. I did the last one last week. This week, I'm doing the penultimate rule, which is:

The Adverb Always Follows the Verb

Okay, the main problem for me with this rule is the word “always.” I very much enjoy breaking rules that contain the words “always” and “never.” It’s great fun!

I think the actual rule is that the verb should follow the adverb. Maybe that’s the point Safire was making? One official exception is the word “always.”

She carefully walked into the house.
Does that sound better than the one below?
She walked carefully into the house.
The first one is supposed to be more correct.
Of course, fiction writers are encouraged to ditch adverbs whenever possible and use stronger verbs.
She crept into the house.
She tiptoed into the house.
She stole into the house.
Something like that.

“Only” is fun adverb. Here’s a great example of the importance of the placement of the adverb
Only she loves horses.
She only loves horses.
She loves only horses.
See? Three completely different meanings.

“Many” and “much” do get misused and there are actual rules that should be followed for them.
“Much” is a big amount of something. Singular. “Many” is a large count of something. Plural.
I gave her as many details about the project as I could.
I gave her as much detail on the project as I could.

Do you have any other thoughts on adverbs?

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  1. "You left out the Oxford comma," Jasper reproachfully said. ? I think he'd better snarl.

    My favorite is the misplaced modifier. Does Safire mention that?

  2. I think his rule #11, which I should get to on 5/30 if all goes as planned, is the closest, on dangling participles.

    Yeah, Tom Swifties would suffer if this rule were rigidly applied. Or applied rigidly.