Awhile back* , I did a post on adverbs, but recentlyabout a month ago something happened that I thought was a great example of why adverbs can be problematic.

A few weeks ago, Josh and I were watching a show about the Galapagos Islands on the Discovery Channel (why? because it was neat). First they were talking about the formation of some of the islands/volcanoes and said “as recently as 45,000 years ago”. Oh, that recently? Okay, I guess in the history of the world, that’s pretty recent. Carry on.

But then, later in the show they were talking about the giant turtles which inhabit the islands, saying that they had only recently come to live there. Um, how recently? 45,000 years ago? 10,000 years ago? 500 years ago? Last year? Now that you’ve told me that recently was 45,000 years ago, I don’t know what you mean!

I even commented on this to Josh, because the program relied on an adverb, without quantifying or qualifying it for the watcher. This is why editors, critique partners, etc will tell you to avoid adverbs. How slowly is slowly? How quickly is quickly? How recently is recently? Unless you give us a way to judge, we have no idea what you’re thinking. And once you do give us a way to judge, you might inadvertently confuse us the next time you use it. Sometimes, it’s best to avoid the adverbs all together!

*the observant might have noticed my use of the adverb here, to start things off. Awhile back I posted about this subject. How long ago was awhile? A few months? A year? Turns out it was two years ago. Cripes. But it helps you see the indefinable nature of adverbs, doesn’t it?

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