adverbsWith the proliferation of abbreviations, emoticons and emojis masquerading as words in our emails and text messages, we somehow seem to be wordier than ever when it comes to our conversational tactics. In particular, we have been plagued by the adverb.

Stephen King said, “the road to hell is paved with adverbs” and I completely agree with him. I’ve been suspicious of adverbs since I was a wee lass and was led to believe the laborious task of rowing a boat could actually be done “merrily merrily merrily merrily.”

While a good “laughed heartily” or “smiled sheepishly” paints a succinct mental picture and is an appropriate use of the infamous verb-modifier; we’ve begun sprinkling redundant versions of these verbal flourishes in our everyday sentences like chocolate chips in cookies.

Take a good listen next time you have a chat with a friend or colleague (or with me) and you might notice a few of these unnecessary adverbs sucking all the good air out of the room:

Totally: Since the mid-80s this word has been bouncing around our vocabularies like a bad side-ponytail.

Definitely: The grown-up version of “totally.”

Currently: You can have done something in the past, or you can plan to do something in the future, but if you’re doing it “currently” you’re really just doing it.

Personally: In case there was a question as to whose opinion you were stating when you were stating your opinion.

Frankly/honestly/truly: Unless you’re Rhett Butler you can’t get away with this without raising red flags on all your sentences that don’t start with “frankly.”

Obviously: Either what you’re saying is obvious, negating the need for the preamble, or what you’re saying is not obvious and you’re insulting me. Obviously, neither of these options is ideal.

Actually: While best used to convey a surprising statement, we most often employ this word to drive false excitement about something not terribly interesting: “actually <dramatic pause> this green smoothie tastes like peanut butter.” It can also be used as a preface to correcting an incorrect statement: “actually <brace yourself ‘cuz you’re about to get schooled> Friends lasted ten seasons.” Either way, stop it.

While adverbs aren’t necessarily improper grammar, they are extremely superfluous, entirely redundant, and fairly lazy. Ok, so perhaps they won’t actually pave your way to hell, but the world might be a more concise place if we could keep our adverbs in check.

Do you ever find yourself speaking adverbiably?

Disclaimer: Nine adverbs were harmed in the writing of this post.

About WhiteElephantInTheRoom

I'm an 80s music lover, traveling junkie, mac & cheese connoisseur, amateur wine snob, party-planning priestess and Chicago transplant living in Southern California. I find adventure in the everyday and have a unending compulsion to write about it. Hope you enjoy reading my mind!
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50 Responses to Adverbiably

  1. nancygoodman says:

    Your writing makes me laugh!

  2. My 4 year old says actually a lot. I don’t know where he got it, but it’s noticeable and very annoying for some reason.

  3. yammeringlew says:

    Nice article. I’m sure I do this a lot. I’m very talkative, but I’m pretty inefficient in my language use. Taking some unnecessary adverbs out should help. Also, this article made me think of the old Schoolhouse Rock “Lolly Lolly get your adverbs here.”

  4. NotAPunkRocker says:


    I overuse “personally” a lot at work.

  5. I love it and you are totally right, especially when it comes to how we are obviously doing something currently. We really do not actually need to tell anyone about it! Great post!!

  6. swraynes says:

    I love this! You are completely right! Also, yes the obviously is definitely a hidden insult.

  7. M&M says:

    Obviously, this post totally wins and while I am currently writing this response, I’d like to say that, personally, I think that it is very witty too. Actually, I’m just trying to use your adverbs but I must still frankly/honestly/truly say that you are definitely right about this adverb plague.

  8. I predict in ten years time Adverbs will be The Polar Bears of Grammar and great swathes of bookish types will rally to their defence. You read it here first (ly)!

  9. I’m seriously guilty of all of the above. 😀

  10. skylerbaldwin13 says:

    Reblogged this on Why is there a hole in my sock!? and commented:
    This has to be one of the greatest things I have ever read.

  11. roaringlionesss says:

    I find myself saying a lot of those adverbs. I never thought of that until reading this. Good insight, now it’s time for me to cut down on them!

  12. Rick Griffin says:

    Unquestionably you are an amazingly talented writer. Personally I am customilary guilty of being repetitively redundant over and over again. You have totally inspired me to do better:) Cheers!

  13. The one which has annoyed me the most over the past few days is “nimbly”. I have had to sit through hours of meetings with a man who, rather than saying “moving swiftly on” (which would be a lie since he does nothing swiftly) he says, “_____ing nimbly on”. The verb has been skipping, flying, and even hurtling. How does one “hurtle nimbly on”? Hurtling is for high speed trains. Nimble is for cats or monkeys. First I wished the man would buy a thesaurus. Then I decided that would probably make him worse, and started wishing he’d just use plain English.

  14. yammeringlew says:

    I’m curious author, does this bother you a great deal fo realz? Or are you just making note of it for humorous flourish?

  15. PinotNinja says:

    You caught me. I use totally like it’s my job and, when I want to class up an email, I change all of the totally’s to definitely’s.

  16. Pingback: Adverbiably | Let Life Move You

  17. ivyon says:

    Actually I do. It makes me feel like a know english language more, I imagine myself waving to all the world throwing adverbs like a pro.

  18. I am TOTALLY guilty. Sometimes I do it just for emphasis b/c I think I sound more charming (?) but often they’re filler words when I can’t be bothered to actually speak with someone. Now I’m going to be so hyper aware!

  19. blanche says:

    Crazy witty! Seriously!

  20. ruchis19 says:

    Just discovered your blog! Love it! Keep it up 🙂


  21. yammeringlew says:

    What do you think of the phenomenon of lots of people using the REALLY? REALLY! RRRREAAAALLLLYYYYY?? expressions?

  22. This is a great post! Can I have permission to print this post out and give it out as handouts to my English students??

  23. arkansasrose says:

    Actually, I personally am totally agreeable that adverbs may honestly be overused in obviously unnecessary situations. I have currently decided that I will definitely think frankly about not using them quite so often. It is truthfully the most I can promise.

    This article made me laugh and admit maybe I do use them a little too often. I say nearly every adverb you mentioned. You said that using them was lazy. I feel the opposite, I feel not using them to enhance what you are saying is lazy. I do agree they need to be kept in check, sometimes.

  24. Adam says:

    Frankly, I definitely agree with your assessment of adverbs here, obviously.

  25. michellenwin says:

    A post ranting about the over-usage of adverbs definitely calls for comments using an abundance of adverbs, just to tick ya off 🙂 haha but seriously, love your blog! P.S. Friends obviously ran for 10 seasons, and anyone who thinks otherwise is completely out it!

  26. Winding road says:

    This is hilarious! I despise the use of “obviously”, I always find it insulting. But the others, guilty…in particular “totally” and “definitely”…I’m still trying to figure out how old I am. ha!

  27. cgbalu says:

    currently I am reading this and it is totally hilarious!

  28. This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something which helped
    me. Thanks a lot!

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