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The Adverb's Place in Humor

You’ve probably heard that adverbs are the spawn of Satan and a well meaning but old and faded plastic fern.

They kinda are.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t still valuable, lovable members of our word world which can sit nicely in a corner gathering dust and looking vaguely pretty.

When are adverbs okay and when are they not? Simple. Adverbs are okay when I’m the one writing them. Well, that was easy!

Seriously, though, despite what (you think) Stephen King might have told you, adverbs work when they add something to the sentence when a stronger word is unavailable.

First, briefly, what is an adverb? Briefly. If it gives you more information about the verb, the action, then it is an adverb. Typically (there I go again!), adverbs end in "ly", but not always.

Here follows a direct quote from Mr. King regarding adverbs.

"With adverbs, the writer usually tells us [they are] afraid [they aren't expressing themself] clearly, that [they are] not getting the point or the picture across," in which he uses the very thing he's arguing against! "Clearly" King understood the wisdom of moderation and "clearly" King didn't, at the time of writing, understand the proper use of the pronoun "they".

Adverbs are also a secret tool for humorologists. This tool, as all humorological tools do, involves the element of surprise. I speak now of fabled and revered oxymorons. Laugh out loud funny? Not usually. But they always add that air of levity to a piece which makes the reader feel as if you're being funny which is almost just as good. "Deliciously grotesque" offers a far more interesting picture than "grotesque" can produce on its own. Something that's "deliciously grotesque" just oozes scrumptious gourmet horror at you. "Awfully good" is another one. So good it just hurts.

While, as I said, oxymorons, which rely on our friend the adverb, aren't knee-slapping, toe-tapping, hand-clapping funny (I don't know if anything is that funny), they do punch up your prose in a way that gives the reader the general impression that you're not taking yourself too seriously here. It serves as the warm-up act for your good material.

I hope you've found this explanation of adverb hate/love awfully good and not, simply, awful.

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