Grammar Hammer: Is That Adverb Necessary?

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If you were a child of the 70s and 80s, ABC’s animated series Schoolhouse Rock  left an indelible mark. Many of us can trace a love for history, mathematics, science and – of course – grammar to the show’s clever, musical episodes.

In honor of the back to school season, ABC aired a tv special last month ranking the all-time best episodes of Schoolhouse Rock. I’ve shared my affection for Schoolhouse Rock before, and I am happy to report that my personal favorite, “Conjuction Junction” took the No. 1 spot!

Another one of my favorites, which also claimed a spot on the countdown, is “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here” about a family-run business selling adverbs. “Lolly, Lolly” has inspired the subject of this week’s Grammar Hammer.

School House Rock Image modified from G. A. Carafelli/Flickr; used under CC BY-NC 2.0 license

Image modified from G. A. Carafelli/Flickr; used under CC BY-NC 2.0 license

Adverbs modify other words such as:

  • A verb
  • An adjective
  • Another adverb

Adverbs will tell you how, where, when, in what manner, or to what extent an action should be performed. The easiest adverbs to identify are the ones that end in ly, but just because a word ends in –ly, it’s not necessarily an adverb. Also, not all adverbs end in –ly, and there are adverbial phrases that don’t end in –ly. Back into the grammatical minefield we go!

My biggest tip for using adverbs in writing is to consider whether or not you need them. Very popular adverbs like “really,” “very,” “quite,” “extremely,” and “severely” are intended as intensifiers. Consider whether or not what you’re trying to communicate needs to be intensified.

For example, saying “The house was severely destroyed by the fire,” doesn’t add anything to the prose. The house was destroyed by fire. Saying it was severely destroyed invokes more emotion, but is it necessary to what you’re trying to say?

Grammar Hammer, at your service … indubitably.

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at catherine.spicer@prnewswire.com.

A version of this post originally appeared on PR Newswire’s Beyond PR. Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.

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