Lawyers Fight Bravely to Save the Endangered Adverb


The “cool kids” have made it popular to discriminate against adverbs. Stephen King, captain of the I-Hate-Adverbs Club, even said “The adverb is not your friend.” This problem goes all the way to the top, apparently:

[L]awyers who stuff so-call intensifier adverbs in their legal briefs—words such as “very,” “obviously,” “clearly,” “absolutely” and “really”—are more likely to lose an appeal in court than attorneys who avoid those “weasel words” …

Lawyers, aided by legislative champions of the downtrodden in many states and the United States Congress, have come to the rescue.

Adverbs in recent years have taken on an increasingly important—and often contentious—role in courthouses. Their influence has spread with the help of lawmakers churning out new laws packed with them.

A legal anthropology professor (which is a thing?) in Kentucky even wrote that “law generally, and criminal law especially, emerges through its adverbs.” Bryan Garner has pretty much settled the issue, of course. According to the Washington Post, Garner points out that “legislators and adverbs need one another.” Then he points out that King doesn’t know anything:

No legislative drafter ever says: Did I pull my readers in? That’s something Stephen King has to ask.

Featured image: “Opening a can of Whoop Ass” from Shutterstock.


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