Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Sentence Adverbs.

Sentence Adverbs. Sentence adverbs qualify an entire statement rather than a single word in the sentence. A sentence adverb does not resolve itself into the form “in a ___ manner,” as most adverbs do. Thus, in “Happily, the bill did not go beyond the committee,” the introductory adverb “happily” conveys the writer’s opinion on the message being imparted. The following words are among the most frequent sentence adverbs ending in “-ly”: “accordingly,” “admittedly,” “apparently,” “arguably,” “certainly,” “concededly,” “consequently,” “curiously,” “fortunately,” “importantly,” “interestingly,” “ironically,” “legally,” “logically,” “mercifully,” “naturally,” “oddly,” “paradoxically,” “regrettably,” “sadly,” “strangely,” “theoretically.” Improvising sentence adverbs from traditional adverbs like “hopefully” (= in a hopeful manner) and “thankfully” (= in a thankful manner) is objectionable to many stylists but seems to be on the rise. Avoid newfangled sentence adverbs of this kind. And in formal prose, even those like “hopefully” and “thankfully” shouldn’t appear. Though increasingly common, they have a tarnished history. Because sentence adverbs reveal the writer’s own thoughts and biases, writers often overuse them in argumentation — but danger lurks in words such as “clearly,” “obviously,” “undoubtedly,” and “indisputably.” For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “We are told to teach ‘things,’ that is to say, realities of sense and not words, because words are barren! Why, it is through words first of all, as vehicles of things — things of the mind — that we learn all that is worth learning.” S.S. Laurie, Lectures on Language and Linguistic Method in the School 47 (1893).
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