Yours, appreciatively


Extract from the final draft of Madame Bovary.

One often reads that adverbs should be avoided. This is sound advice, on the whole. They generally clutter unnecessarily, add astoundingly little, and are arguably actually used relatively ineffectively. Imagine my consternation, then, when when I did a search for -ly occurrences in One Green Bottle and found three on the first page. Including one in the second line: Albert Roncet glanced at his visitor appreciatively.

Alarm bells rang. I pictured the agent’s weary outburst: Appreciatively? Oh, for heaven’s sake, give me a break! And she presses the rejection button, thinking, One less in the slush pile, at least. Phew!

How to get round it, though? What the adverb conveys is important here – I want it to be clear that Albert appreciates the visit. He glanced in appreciation? He gave an appreciative glance? His glance was appreciative? I juggled with a dozen alternatives before dispensing with the glance and settling on: Albert Roncet nodded his appreciation. It took me a good half hour.

Well, at least I’m in good company. As Oscar Wilde famously remarked, “I spent all morning putting in a comma, and all afternoon taking it out.” Ah, the joys of writing!

12 thoughts on “Yours, appreciatively

  1. This is just so true. When asked “How did your writing go today?” …I often search through the mess of scratched and cancelled sentences, locate the two sentences crammed into the margins that I may salvage and actually use, and reply “Oh, fine. Just fine.”

    Liked by 1 person

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