Keys to using –ly adverbs judiciously

Sometimes this useful suffix just gums up your writing—needlessly.

Sometimes this useful suffix just gums up your writing—needlessly

That exchange from the movie “Airplane!” is presented—gratuitousLY—to spotlight adverbs ending in –ly.

Before we get into adverbs’ more nuanced applications, let’s have a quick refresher on adjectives and adverbs and the differences between them.

An adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun:

An adverb can modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or a whole sentence:

You may have noticed that three of the four adverbs had –ly endings, and that’s not unusual. Many adverbs are just adjectives with the -ly suffix: “accidental” becomes “accidentally,” “perfect becomes “perfectly,” “loving” becomes “lovingly,” “foolish” becomes “foolishly,” and so on. I’d list them all, but we’d be here indefinitely.


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