In Defense of Adverbs

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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 Rumpus Deputy Editor and founder of English Kills Review an online literary magazine focused on books, authors, and New York City. His writing has appeared in Little Fiction, Vol 1 Brooklyn, Joyland Magazine, Chicago Review of Books, Fiction Advocate, and elsewhere. He holds a Master’s Degree in English from Rutgers University and lives in Brooklyn. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at IanMacAllen.com. More from this author →