Americans Hate Adverbs

What People and Globe Students Should Know About Writing


There are two levels of writing classes a student can test into at Globe University-La Crosse: Foundations of Writing I and Foundations of Writing II. Composition, a college-level writing course, is a requirement for many programs. Foundations of Writing I and II are remedial coursework. Student taking these courses need a refresher on how the English language works at its most basic functions. Few students, no matter which writing class, know the parts of speech but seem to struggle most with adverbs.

What is it about adverbs that makes a normally level-headed student squirm and want to beat his or her head into a wall? The combination of how Americans speak today and the evolution of language may be a reason why adverbs seem obsolete. The function still and will forever exist, but the form may be changing into something that is vastly different from what many people were taught. The idea that adverbs generally end in -ly may be a thing of the past, but for people, who were taught to use “proper” English, this could be a very frustrating realization.

In my head I am constantly adding the proper adverb where others use a form of an adjective as a stand in for the adverb. In conversations with other “language-nerds,” I have found that I am not alone. When we hear,” I was real sick for four days” we are mentally adding the –ly to real. What is to be done about this development? What should instructors be doing to combat the deterioration of language, or should they be doing anything.

According to, language is doing what it does: cycling. In the early 1800’s before the –ly form was considered the proper form for an adverb, what were called flat adverbs were more commonly used. These so called flat adverbs, ones without the –ly, are making a comeback. Some may allude that social media, texting, and the evolution back to the “text based” language age means more use of flat adverbs.

Although the cycle of language is understood to be natural and continuous, people struggle with change. Each generation believes that their generation was the pinnacle of human evolution and that each and every one following is creating havoc of what they worked so hard to “perfect.” So, for at least the time being, students should avoid using flat adverbs in academic writing or resumes and cover letters. Instructors and employers often are the last to make the recession to new writing rules.

Southeastern Louisiana State University has some great ideas for how to use adverbs with strong verbs to make your resume more dynamic. Check out this page to find ideas on how to boost your resume’s effectiveness.