Could We Just Lose the Adverb (Already)?

Christian Lorentzen in Vulture:

ScreenHunter_1947 May. 20 09.14I’m cursed with a mind that looks at a sentence and sees grammar before it sees meaning. It might be that I’m doing math by other means, that I overdid it with diagramming sentences as a boy, or that my grasp of English was warped by learning Latin. Translating Horace felt like solving math problems. Reading Emily Dickinson began to feel like solving math problems. You might think this is a cold way of reading, but it’s the opposite. You develop feelings. Pronoun, verb, noun — I like sentences that proceed in that way, in a forward march. Or those tricked out with a preposition, another noun, and a couple of adjectives. Conjunctions and articles leave me unfazed. If these combinations result in elaborate syntactical tangles, it thrills me. It’s cheap words I hate, and I hate adverbs.

I’m unembarrassed to admit that my taste in literary style owes a lot to my adolescent reading of The Sun Also Rises — Hemingway was no friend of adverbs. He’s not alone. “Use as few adverbs as possible” is among V. S. Naipaul’s rules for beginning writers. When William Strunk and E. B. White admonish us to omit unnecessary words, I know they’re talking about adverbs without their having to say it.

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