If you and I were to put together a parts of speech highlight reel, adverbs would probably never see the light of YouTube.
Nouns are. Verbs do. Adverbs just modify. How riveting.
Want proof that adverbs don’t bedazzle like nouns, verbs or even adjectives? Let’s break down the first sentence of this post. Nominees for glitziest phrase include “parts of speech highlight reel” and “see the light of YouTube.” Not a single adverb in the mix.
In fact, you probably skedaddled right past the “probably” in that sentence.
And it’s true: We should pay first and closest attention to our verbs and nouns. If we feel compelled to modify our verbs, doesn’t it signal the need for more muscular alternatives?
Only one problem with this advice, at least for me: I owe my entire career to an adverb.
I know because my first boss said so. I was cleaning toilets and dust-mopping lecture halls when I applied for my first copywriter job. My resume was meh, my spec book ordinary and my cover letter unexceptional save for the one sentence that jumped out at my boss: “I will write and tirelessly rewrite.”
Here’s where this post gets practical: Reread your next email, speech, proposal or script and try to replace any adverbs with stronger verbs.
But if you unilaterally decide an adverb gets to stay, don’t panic.
Good things can still probably, likely, almost certainly happen if you’ve made the effort to rewrite tirelessly.
(Note: Fourth word of this post’s penultimate paragraph courtesy of @mocha_chick.)