One thing that can really set you apart from the rest of the pack is proper use of adverbs. In conversation, e-mails, and other communications, it’s fairly common for folks to drop the “-ly.”
Some do it because the rest of the world does it. Others may have forgotten the difference between an adverb and an adjective. Or perhaps you were sleeping in class on the day adverbs were taught. An adverb, for those of you classroom-droolers, is a word that describes a verb or an adjective. The adjective describes a thing. It will indicate a color, texture, speed, or what-not. The adjective tells you that the boat is red. The adverb tells you that it’s bright red. Now, everyone knows the verb is an action. It’s something you did. The verb says that you rowed the boat. The adverb comes in to describe how you did it. The adverb says that you nervously rowed the boat.
Common errors with adverbs are usually easily corrected (How are they corrected? Easily. That’s the adverb! See what I did there?!) by adding an “-ly.” Just make sure you don’t get carried away and add it when it doesn’t exist. Here are a few nails-on-the-chalkboard examples, along with corrections:
“I’m real happy with this report.” No, you’re not. You’re really happy.
“Run down there real quick, and tell him we’re ready to start.” Oh! Double offense! Instead, you should run down there really quickly.
Here’s a tricky one:
“He did bad on his presentation.” Actually, he did badly. But if it’s a sensing verb, the rules change. “He feels bad about missing the retirement party.” That’s correct. If you say he feels badly about missing it, then that means that perhaps he’s bad at judging his feelings. I’ve been guilty of getting carried away with myself on this one. Grammar Girl clears up the confusion between bad and badly here and also gives a better explanation on linking verbs and action verbs. She also gives a great example of a time when Cyndi Lauper’s grammar was better than Donald Trump’s.
Here’s another tricky one:
Did he do good on his presentation? No. He only “did good” if he went down to the corner and bought lunch for the homeless guy who stands there every afternoon. If the presentation was expertly delivered and everyone applauded, then he did well. Grammar Girl does it again right here with the superior explanation.
Navigating grammar rules on the spur of the moment can be difficult and can lead to confusion in misspoken communications. However, when you’re e-mailing or writing, you have a little more time to check yourself. For that reason, the standard is even higher. If you’re unsure of your ability to effectively communicate through writing, then ask a professional for help. Sometimes, they will proofread your work for very little. In fact, in the copywriting world, proofreading is one of the least expensive copywriting fees you will ever pay. It’s entirely worth it, and then some.
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