Grammatical gripes

In the classic work, Dante’s Inferno, hell is made up of rings, each one with a punishment more terrible than the last. For example: Cigarette smokers are consigned to the fourth ring, where they will forever have to roll their own because of soaring prices on their favorite filter tips.

“I feel sorry for the much maligned –ly words,” she said wearily. I just got my manuscript back from my editor, and was dismayed to see the number of adverbs which must get the axe. When did we decide that in writing, adverbs belong in the fiery abyss of hell?

I personally have nothing against jauntily, quickly, and quietly, yet I’m sent on a search and destroy mission to eradicate all such offensive language. I get the impression from my editor, that if I use an adverb after dialogue, I open myself to almost certain alien abduction and vigorous probing.

I read a blog recently, in which the writer tackles the “absolute” rules of writing.

Thou shalt not use an adverb

Thou shalt only write what thou knowest

Thou shalt not write unless ye be in a place that serves overpriced coffee

That last one is problematic in that I invariably spend my first five minutes there trying to figure out why the smallest size cup is called a “tall.”

But I digress.

Agents want to see descriptive verbs, so I have little choice but to pull out my Thesaurus and try to decide if saying something loudly should be written as “exclaimed, vented, asserted, spluttered, articulated, growled, or proclaimed.”

So weigh in and let me know what your favorite adverbs are, your least favorite grammatical rule, or what size I should order if I want the largest cup of coffee.

24 thoughts on “Grammatical gripes

  1. This is hilarious – I’m a total adverb whore. I also don’t drink coffee (don’t judge!) and ordering a tea at Starbucks makes me sweat (mightily).

  2. I see nothing wrong with using ‘ly’ words…they ARE words, are they not? I use them liberally throughout, not giving a shit whether anyone likes them. I don’t care…maybe I should, but I don’t.

    I hate my word processor sometimes though…it doesn’t like me using contractions. It wants me to use ‘does not’ instead….well, sometimes when you write, you can’t use a contraction; it just sounds better to use it…so, I ignore it. Besides, most of us use contractions in everyday language…

    I’ve never been much for grammar, so I feel your pain…I’m with ya, sister!

    • Your word processor needs an attitude adjustment. As William points out, Grover is about the only person, muppet, thing, that uses no contractions when speaking. Is it not so?

      • You have to add Data from Star Trek the Next Generation and Ziva from NCIS to that list.

  3. I’m so bad at grammar that I wouldn’t know an adverb from a hole in the wall. Did I say that correct(ly)? This comment is going swimming(ly) don’t cha think?

  4. As always, you are hilarious. And, here is my theory on adverbs (and dialogue tags, and sentence fragments, etc.): know the rules so that you can know when to break them. And if your editor scratches out an adverb that you know is right, then fight! I love descriptive verbs, but I also love a good adverb, and, you know what? When the tone and character are just right, I also love me a good double or even trouble adjective string. So there. :-~

  5. Amazingly enough, I read your blog rather quickly and noticed the way you lightheartedly suggested throwing all adverbs into hell. I believe that to be a hopelessly outdated method of randomly cutting word count to please adverb hating critics in a society of stinkingly bad readers who prefer expressively, lovingly, danglingly, ly’s in their stories. Besides, I hate rules.

    • Danglingly? I love it! I need to add that one to my lexicon of naughty words.

  6. Thank god for Thesaurus.com!!

    I honestly don’t feel there are “experts” when it comes to writing. Who the hell died and made them the literary god? Everyone has a different style of writing. Just because “the expert” feels you’ve done this, this, and this, wrong doesn’t mean it’s wrong. As I see it, it’s just not the way HE/SHE would have written it.

    I don’t know which adverb I use the most. I’ll have to “quickly” go back and look.

    • Unfortunately, publishers listen to the experts too. I’m really grateful for all the hard work she put into the manuscript. Just needed to whine a little.

  7. I can understand using “raced” instead of “ran quickly,” but eliminating all adverbs sounds drastically, foolishly, rashly risky to me!

  8. Another thing I thoroughly enjoy about self-publishing. I write whatever the hell I want to wrote. I’ve found the best route to take is to learn all the rules…and then break every one.

    Take that, Manhattan suits!

    • I guess that means no tall no-foam latte with a sprinkle of cinnamon if I’m in the neighborhood.

  9. I like the adverbs because there are so many levels and facets to movement, they simply must be aptly and vigorously defined! Ahem. I will have a Vanilla Latte please, Tall.
    Rules I hate: That dangling preposition thingy. I’m the world’s biggest offender.
    Other things I hate: When people don’t know their ‘their’ from their ‘there’ from their ‘they’re’. Annoying as hell. And Please people, When you need to write you’re, write you’re, not your. Annoying as hell.
    Other than that, I’m good. About that Latte?

  10. R-E-S-P-E-C-D, find out what it means to me

    oh, sorry wrong answer, we thought this was the bad spellers post – carry on

  11. Hmmm…

    I love my editor but I certainly didn’t do everything she indicated.

    All hail self-publishing.

    And, about that rule when a quoted phrase ends a sentence. Forget it. It came from the days when typesetters put each character into a wooden form by hand. If they put the period outside the close quote, it had the tendency to fall out. Nothing to do with any GrammaticoSyntactic properness…

    Coffee? Strongest blend, extra caffeine.

  12. Grover has to make an appearance soon, doesn’t he?

    I think adverbs are things that can be used in moderation. Or, to be more precise… Thinking thoughtfully, I say adverbs really are things that can be usefully used moderately.

    *gets slapped by the New York Suit Brigade*

    Oh, and the eighth circle of Hell is reserved for lawyers, accountants, and vampire rabbits.

  13. Karla, I am so with you on this. I can point any number of past top sellers who dared to use adverbs. What agents care about is getting through the manuscript quickly, so cut, cut, cut. I’ve decided to break my bonds of enslavement to the current world of how to write and add adverbs where I feel I (and I emphasize I) need them.

  14. I know what an adverb is, but I wanted to add that my favorite words are SAT words from 1975 – like concomitant, unctuous, and noxious.

  15. Grammatic(al?) gripes. My kids complain because I’m always correcting them. Nauseated means sick to your stomach, nauseous means you make other people sick to their stomach. I may attend orientation but I have been oriented not orientated. I may be a commentator but that means I comment not that I commentate. And don’t get me started about reading the discussion posts of my fellow college seniors.

    BTW, no coffee for me please. I drink hot cider at Starbucks.

  16. I spend one entire revision session on each manuscript on the hunt for adverbs. But I don’t mind them, in moderation, and as long as there *is* moderation I really don’t get why anyone else does. They’re a tool — you may use the hammer more often than a jigsaw, but when time comes for a jigsaw there shouldn’t be any rule against it!

  17. I refuse to eliminate adverbs completely. Cardinal sin or not, if used correctly, they add life to a story. I put my foot down dammit! I actually use them a bit to describe body language during dialogue and I got complimented by a few reviewers on it and cussed out by one. Oh well, trying to please everyone is a sure way to the nuthouse.

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