Beginning Sentences with Adverbs

The AP recently made headlines by saying that it was OK to begin a sentence with “Hopefully”. My mother is rolling in her grave as we speak. I don’t care what AP says, I still think it’s ungrammatical.

However I see it all the time in my work. Scientists love to begin sentences with adverbs: “Interestingly, mouse A ate cheerios, while mouse B preferred cornflakes.”

There is so little room in scientific writing for self-expression that I think they slip the words in the only place they can see it. And it saves them a transition.

One can see how it’s a larger issue. The people who named a 17-mile underground tunnel that they are going to use to recreate the big bang just The Large Hadron Collider perhaps need some creative assistance. Although “the God particle” is a pretty fucking awesome name (and concept).

Are you a prescriptivist or descriptivist? Which side are you on?

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2 responses to “Beginning Sentences with Adverbs

  1. I’ve come to understand why Stephen King suggested that we avoid adverbs in our stories. I use them sometimes when I talk (or write blog comments or dialogue) but I try to avoid them now in a serious blog post and especially in my fiction. It makes me work harder, but it makes me happier with the work I produce.

    ‘Hopefully’ falls out of my mouth every once in a while as an answer to someone in conversation, but I want to snatch it out of the air every time it slips out. When I see it written down, though, my eyes almost cross. Reading my oldest stories can be quite sad.

    • Hey Sparks, I draw a huge distinction between blog posts or conversation and formal, published work. In conversation I use the word “really” five thousand times, and when typing emails quickly I write all sorts of embarrassing things that I’m not going to admit to just this moment.

      Adverbs have their places, but not in the beginning of sentences in published work. But, that’s where I am, catching the adverbs before publication. (Oh and if you saw my early work, you’d laugh your ass off to know that I was going to be a copyeditor. Seriously. My use of commas was disgraceful.)

      And, yes, “it makes me work harder, but it makes me happier with the work I produce.” I’m going to tattoo that on my forehead. Thank you.

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