In Defense of Adverbs


Adverbs are bad, every writer has been told, repeatedly. Use them sparingly, if at all, is the advice commonly given. But adverbs do serve a purpose, and more often it is misuse, not overuse, that unfortunately taints bad writing. Robin Black, writing at
Beyond the Margins, defends the adverb:

Adverbs are modifiers. They modify – which means they change, alter, amend, that part of speech to which they are subordinate. In other words, they are not unnecessary emphasizers as in, “She shouted loudly.” They don’t exist to reiterate, but to provide a specificity not provided by the verb, and therefore to shade and even alter the verb’s meaning in that particular sentence.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →