Adverbs are Wrong

Have you noticed the irritating trend of titles online “This Video Will Make Your Day” or “You Won’t Believe What This Kitten Can Do” or “Five Facts about Colorado that Will Blow Your Mind. No Really”? It’s like each title is a six-word plea to click me! click me! click me! I’m cooler, smarter, and sexier than all of your other hyperlinks.

Email subject lines are no better. I sign a bunch of leftie petitions online, and now I get emails with subjects such as “What [big corporation] Doesn’t Want You To Know” or “Montsanto Doesn’t Want You To Click On This” or “My Dad’s In the Hospital.” I hate being emotionally manipulated by my email. Shut up, and tell me something real.

Maybe I spend too much time online.

My science papers don’t have that problem. Their problem is adverbs. Scientists aren’t allowed to be emotional or subjective in their articles. And so they say things like “Clearly, microfluid dynamics is the study of the kinetics of liquids” or “Interestingly, the anti-mouse serum did not turn the murine samples into dragons.” Let the data be interesting without telling us it is interesting.

What do you find interesting, clear, or highly clickable?

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12 responses to “Adverbs are Wrong

  1. Weirdly [ahem], beginning a sentence with an adverb seems to be a well-established tradition in science papers, right up there with the use of the passive voice.

    I think those two things may be related. The passive voice is really antithetical to generating excitement. To compensate, one throws in a spicy adverb or two.

    Similarly, there’s the academic use of “now” instead of “so” as the awkward verbal segue into a new subject. You can always peg someone as being a professor when she starts a story with “now.” Had she been an NPR commentator, a comedy personality, or a student, she would have started with “so.”

    Some of us Californians of indeterminate pigeonhole have a short-circuit for segues — we use “Dude.” I understand the younger generation have rejected this noble word in favor of “Yo,” and often move the segue to the end of the first sentence in the new subject.

    To summarize these maunderings:
    “Interestingly, sufficient coffee was not consumed by the authors” — scientist.
    “So, I started writing without thinking it through.” — This American Life, student, etc.
    “Now, when one starts writing without thinking it through or having consumed sufficient coffee, one appears foolish.” — professor.
    “Dude, what are you on about?” — Californian.
    “Better get some coffee, yo!” — young person.

  2. From the grammatically deficient Devil’s Advocate :

    ” . . . the anti-mouse serum did not turn the murine samples into dragons” is not a particularly interesting statement to me, as I had no reason to believe it could.

    But stick and ‘interestingly’ at the front of that sentence, and I realize that the scientist assumed it would.

    Now, ask me about IDPs . . . 😀

    • True confession: I usually change “Interestingly” to “It is interesting to note” which makes it about the least interesting thing in the world; however, the anti-mouse serum didn’t turn the murine samples into dragons in an interesting way, rather the fact it didn’t happen was interesting. Or, as you say, not interesting. Because why would anti-mouse serums turn anything into dragons?

      How are your proteins these days?

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