Friday, May 6, 2016


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Linda Kay, author and blogger of note at Senior Adventures, sent me a question when I offered to respond to grammatical concerns in my Friday blog posts. I made her wait for an answer until the A to Z Challenge ended.

Here's Linda Kay's question:

One of my critique group ladies recently attended a writing class in which the teacher emphasized not using words that end in "ly". What are your thoughts on this?

First, let's talk about what the teacher meant by words that end in -ly. 

Her concern was probabLY with adverbs, or words that modify (describe) a verb. Adverbs can also modify other adverbs, an adjective, or a sentence. 

Examples: The old man walked slowly.

Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it?
Ted Striker: Surely you can't be serious.
Rumack: I am serious... and don't call me Shirley.

However, not all adverbs end in -ly, and not all words that end in -ly are adverbs.

But do I agree with the teacher?

Oh, yeah.


1. Writers fall into the use of -ly words the same way they fall into repetitive sentence structures. If I read several paragraphs and see one -ly, okay. If I see -ly in multiple sentences, I get tired. Lazy writer. Bor-ring!

2. They tend to be weak words. Consider my example above. Why would I write The old man walked slowly when I can write The old man shuffled along or The old man dragged his feet as he walked? Don't "shuffled" and "dragged his feet" create stronger word pictures than "walked slowly"? 

3. Sometimes adverbs indicate that you think your readers won't get your point. "I didn't do anything wrong," Sam shouted angrily. Why do you need angrily? "Shouted" gets the idea across. Removing "angrily" gets rid of a word you don't need. 

4. Adverbs can confuse your reader. Yesterday on my blog, I used a song about suffragettes from the movie Mary Poppins. One lyric begins "though we adore men individually." Does that mean they adore individual men, or they, as individuals, adore men?

I hope I answered your question, Linda Kay. Feel free, my friends, to email your grammatical worries to me at And please don't freak out about adverbs in your blog posts, unless you plan to publish your posts in a book. Then it's freak out time. 

Hey, if you haven't voted in my Battle of the Bands, you have until midnight to cast your vote HERE. The song is Nothing Compares 2 U. The contenders are Prince with Mary J. Blige and Sinéad O'Connor.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Thank you, fishducky!


  1. Thanks, Janie...I'll share with my critique group. And I have to vote for Prince, since he is the greatest, and now deceased.

    1. If Prince were here, he would wonder why he never fell in love with you, got rid of your husband, and married you.

  2. This is most excellent advice. I am going to pay attention to the Mary Poppins song. I never noticed that before.

    1. The Mary Poppins song is cute. I picked on it when I wrote about suffragettes, so it's on my mind.

  3. In his book "On Writing," Stephen King advises writers to eliminate adverbs altogether for the reasons you mention. I can't get rid of them completely, but I try to use them sparingly.

    1. Does that mean if I get rid of all adverbs in my writing, I'll be rich?

  4. Surely I have brazenly and fully over utilized adverbs. Increasingly, my lowly skills are shockingly exposed.

    Kindly, Cherdo (ly)

  5. I love your tips. Keep 'em coming.


    1. I love your panties. Keep 'em coming.

  6. I agree that the OVERuse of adverbs is a sign of weak writing, but I don't think it's necessary to eliminate them altogether. The proper adverb can add a touch of humor to a sentence, or can make its rhythm and balance more pleasing.

    1. I use adverbs, so I won't argue with you.

  7. This blog totally makes sense! I know I use adverbs sometimes in poetry, but when I start writing longer fiction and non-fiction again, I will have to check my usage of adverbs!

  8. I had heard of this rule recently when a friend mentioned that he like my writing because I didn't use a lot of adverbs. I didn't even know what he was talking about! Dummy me. But I'm glad I'm sparing in my use of adverbs.
    The way you explained the reason behind the rule makes so much sense and I'll be conscious of it from now on. Thanks for that. Good question Kay!

    Michele at Angels Bark


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