Double Your Adverbs, Double the Trouble

Just as there are uncomparable adjectives (such as perfect or infinite) that cannot take a modifier, there are adverbs that shouldn’t have the suffix “ly” added to them.

We usually picture adverbs as ending in ly, so it’s common at times for writers to think those two little letters are always needed. But they’re not.

Some of those words are doubtless, thus, seldom, as well as the words first, second, third, and last. Yes, some of these words with “ly” tacked on are in the dictionary, but those letters are superfluous and, according to Bryan Gardner, “reveal an ignorance of idiom.”

See how unnecessary those two letters are:

  • She doubtless meant to come home on time.
  • First, open the door. Second, peek inside.
  • Thus, no one has to know.
  • He seldom has to lie.

Why clutter your sentences with extra letters that aren’t needed? Do you think saying “Firstly, she doubtlessly meant to open the door. Thusly, she seldomly needs to knock first” has a nice euphony to it?

I think not. Thus, doubtless, I am seldom wrong.

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