Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Use adverbs instead of incorrect adjectives, even if it makes you sound like a smarty pants!

We are accustomed to athletes use manly sounding adjectives where more prissy-sounding adverbs should be. "I take this serious! Real serious!" whined Arizona Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson after a wag questioned his commitment. "I put my heart and soul into this every single week!"

In certain parts of the nation, a person using an adverb in a quote like the one above might be seen as a snob or, worse, of harboring any number of seditious beliefs --from evolution and global warming to banning guns in bars.

This is probably why the development coordinator of Ijams Nature Center, an educational enterprise, was quoted in a recent Knoxville News Sentinel story as saying, "Absorbing that [budget] cut meant we were going to have to do things different. We did not elect to lay off staff, so we reshuffled the deck, changed things around."

Our language is slowly losing the distinction between adjectives and adverbs, but for now we should follow the rule:

Harbrace Rule 4a: Use adverbs to modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs

NOT Leela played her part perfect.
USE Leela played her part perfectly. [The adverb perfectly modifies the verb played.]

NOT The plane departs at a reasonable early hour.
USE The plane departs at a reasonably early hour. [The adverb reasonably modifies the verb early.]

Most dictionaries still label the following as informal usage: sure for surely, real for really, and good for the adverb well.

INFORMAL The Broncos played real good during the first quarter.
FORMAL The Broncos played very well during the first quarter.