Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Of Adverbs and Semicolons

In an article in Writers' Journal (Vol. 26(2), Mar/Apr. 2006), Lindsley Rinard writes, "Mark Twain is credited with telling writers to kill the adverbs." I don't know if Twain ever said that. For all I know, it may rank up there with Twain being credited with calling Kauai's Waimea Canyon the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Although Twain visited and wrote about the Hawaiian Islands, he never went to Kauai. Whether he said it or not, minimizing the use of adverbs is good advice. Somewhere in a pile of papers in my office I have an interview with Elmore Leonard which appeared in the April 2005 edition of Esquire. He said something like if one of his characters was an adverb, he would have it killed, so I guess he heard the Twain quote or pseudoquote at some point, and took it to heart, or maybe he developed a hatred of adverbs on his own.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., writing in his book A Man Without a Country, said, "Here is a lesson creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college."

So now I resist the urge to use adverbs and semicolons whenever possible.

3 comments:

E. M. Atwater said...

Crap; I kinda like semi-colons; I mean, they're not so bad; even if I did go to school..

Good one, bud!

David C. said...

I couldn't find it at the time of the original post, but on p. 134 of A Man Without A Country, Vonnegut uses a semicolon, then writes, "And there, I've just used a semi-colon, which at the outset I told you never to use. It is to make a point that I did it. The point is: Rules only take us so far, even good rules."

E. M. Atwater said...

You know what - That makes me feel better; 'cause I kinda like 'em!

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