Using adverbs carefully

Using adverbs carefully: This weblog has rarely considered the problem with adverbs until reading recently a post on Language Log referring to Elmore Leonard’s Fourth Rule of Writing:

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb ”said” . . .

. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ”full of rape and adverbs.”

The sinfulness of adverbs was the first thing that came to mind when seeing a report that Suzuki and Consumer Reports have settled finally an 8-year-old lawsuit the auto company brought against the magazine. According to the AP, Suzuki received no money, but Consumer Reports’ owner, Consumer Union, issued a statement that the results of a road test in 1988 of the company’s Samarai was written inaccurately.


“CU’s use of the adverb `easily’ may have been misconstrued and misunderstood,” it said in a statement. “CU never intended to state or imply that the Samurai easily rolls over in routine driving conditions.”

Let this be a lesson for all adverb sinners.