You Know You’re An English Major When…

2 Sep

You know you’re an English major when you find yourself contemplating which part of speech is your favorite.  After minor deliberation, I have decided that adverbs are my favorite part of speech. Nothing changes a sentence like an adverb does. For real—look at the following sentences:

1) He drove to work. V. He drove recklessly to work

2) I stared at the boy. V. I stared longingly at the boy.

3) I placed the cup on the table. V. I daintily placed the cup on the table.

Adverbs make the sentence more dynamic. Hearing or reading a simple sentence is like looking through a dirty lens—you can make out what you’re looking at, but it’s not very clear. Adding but one adverb clears up the lens better than an adjective ever would. Here is a short list of a few exciting and descriptive adverbs:

Zealously, keenly, absentmindedly, loftily, deceivingly, sheepishly, and methodically 🙂

I remember this one time when I thought, “I wonder if it would be better if I was a business major.” This indecisiveness lastly only ten seconds when I corrected my own grammar (I wonder if it would be better if I were a business major). I can’t imagine being any other major and moments when I catch myself contemplating parts of speech only confirm this feeling.

Well, that’s why I like adverbs. Comment with your own favorite part of speech, favorite adverbs, or sentiments on how weird I am because I care about such things.


****Note: I have been getting a lot of comments saying that one should shy away from adverbs in writing. I completely agree. I guess I should have clarified this better in the post. My love of adverbs is strictly with the spoken word, not the written.


92 Responses to “You Know You’re An English Major When…”

  1. serenaM 20 June 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Thanks for following my blog As a lover of adverbs myself (I am Italian and we have lots of beaifully nuanced advebs) I couldn’t but love this post!

  2. Katie @ à pied 20 June 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    I also love adverbs. Thanks for stopping by my blog and giving it a follow!

  3. Katie @ à pied 20 June 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    This is great! Thanks for giving my blog a follow; looking forward to reading more of your stuff.

  4. aquacompass7 20 June 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    From Japan. Thank you for visiting and following my blog. I cannot speak English. But I began to try to write English two months ago.

    • BernBabyBern 20 June 2012 at 10:23 pm #

      You write it very well!

      • RichardB1001 20 June 2012 at 10:42 pm #

        Of course in theories regarding rhetoric adverbs always alert the hearer or reader to suspect the true intent of the speaker. Is the speaker sincere or is he taking away part of what you think he is giving?

  5. Shelagh 20 June 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    I actually laughed out loud (not just an LOL) when I read this, because grammar is a bit of a personal obsession with me. Just ask my kids, who are still being corrected. As are their friends. Did I mention they’re almost adults?

    Blogging does seem to beg for a more fast and loose style, though. You’ll therefore see dangling participles and other such atrocities at Godzillavilla – all in the quest for a good story. Thanks for following!

  6. simon7banks 21 June 2012 at 4:05 am #

    Come on! Fear not the written adverb! It exists to help us communicate. It conveys subtelty and shades of meaning. The dead creed which outlaws adverbs appeals to poor writers who would be found out if they tried to spread their wings – and to those who want their writing to resemble a basic film script without vividness of description or depth of characterisation. Mind you, that’s over four lines without an adverb, though with lots of adjectives.

    In response to your initial question, the only possible reply from this side of the Atlantic is that you know you’re an English Major when an English Captain salutes you.

  7. Chris Brooks 21 June 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    Mine would be verbs. Not just any verbs, but verbs that are actually hijacked nouns or adjectives. Like Shakespeare would do.. “She godded me” and “it would thick my blood”. Those are fun. Especially, making nouns into verbs!

  8. thechristopherg 21 June 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    I like descriptive verbs.

    He sadly walked home vs. He trudged home.

  9. RONBC 22 June 2012 at 11:04 am #

    No mention of “Tom Swifties”? If you were my age, you’d remember them — and their adverbs.

    “Are those goldfish?” asked Tom coyly.

    • lawman83 25 June 2012 at 8:50 pm #

      “I am doing a word puzzle,” said Tom crossly.

    • lawman83 25 June 2012 at 9:05 pm #

      “Those greens I was sitting in was poison ivy,” said Tom rashly.

  10. mustafaaziz96 22 June 2012 at 11:56 am #

    Very true. I must say I agree with you completely. A sentence truly undergoes a transition by the addition of a single adverb. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind. Thanks!!

  11. trixiec67 22 June 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    In today’s world of “Literary Arts”, as it is called in the school system today, I sadly shake my head as I quizzed my daughter about the parts of speech. I cringed when I read the writings of the sixth and seventh graders that I teach as a volunteer of Religious Education ! The misspelled words, the terrible grammar, the incomplete sentences that are handed in on a piece of paper would make your head spin. Perhaps I should have them text me. They don’t have any comprehension either.

    I love words. I love the English language and writing. Good for you. Use adverbs all you want in your writing. There is no wrong or right when it comes to YOUR writing. It is all subjective! I learned this long ago, as I was an art major. I was told I was crazy for not pursuing a writing career instead of photography by a professor. Either choice is a tough road. You are laid bare to the subjectivity of others who wield their authority over you. Stick to your guns and believe strongly in yourself. It was my father’s belief in me that got me through the roughest, lowest points of my education. The critics are everywhere. Don’t listen to them.

  12. Debbie 22 June 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    I can’t imagine “life” without adverbs (spoken or written). Writing would be so terribly dull without them. Do you think it’s the texting influence? I think adverbs will be around long after texting is passe’.

  13. laurakassner 22 June 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    Always nice to find another word nerd. 🙂 Thanks for visiting my blog as well!

  14. Lynden Rodriguez 24 June 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    Adverbs are perfectly acceptable. Novels would be boring without them.

  15. Peruzzi 25 June 2012 at 8:52 am #

    The adverb is the sharp end of the pen.Thanks for checking out the SSConX.

  16. rlorick 25 June 2012 at 10:45 am #

    I find that by adding a relevant adverb to a sentence, you bring your opinions to life; it allows you to add emotion.
    Thanks for alerting all of us 🙂

  17. artymism 25 June 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    My mother would love you. She is a tech editor for a living and is well known for taking absurd amounts of time to edit even casual correspondence!

    Adverbs really can make a sentence, but it is always the word type everyone groans about when they get it in Madlibs! 😀

  18. lawman83 25 June 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    The seasoned blogger bemusedly savored the rookie’s tribute to the salutary adverb.

    By the way, when you see a mistake, point it out. You may find my post on nit-pickers encouraging in this regard:

  19. welcometomylayoff 25 June 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    I always feel slightly intimidated by adverbs. I think it comes from studying different languages (and not feeling firmly grounded gramatically in any of them) — in French, for example, the adverb has a different place in the sentence than in English and sometimes I find myself constructing English sentences in French (and vice versa) and I know it’s the placement of the adverb that gives me away as a stranger in a strange land.

  20. fractallogic 26 June 2012 at 4:14 am #

    And then, alas, one day you find yourself tediously removing all of the adverbs from a document because clarity, the still-undergraduate writing habits of the new interns and the corporate style guide demand it.

  21. vintage45 27 June 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    Way back when adverbs were known as Tom Swifties after the young adult book series that started in 1910. In the late 60’s-early 70’s it became a mini trend to use them whenever possible in concversation.. It didn’t last long since it grated on the nerves after the first few.

  22. kimcollinseditingservices 28 June 2012 at 12:27 am #

    I have found myself contemplating my favourite part of speech, too. And I just love saying “parse.” lol. My copy editing instructor taught me that one. 🙂

    I’d have to say I really enjoy appositives, especially of the non-restrictive variety so I can put commas around it! Is an appositive considered one of the main parts of speech??

  23. Walter Boomsma 28 June 2012 at 6:22 am #

    I must not be an English Major… I do not have a favorite part of speech–I just love words. Or perhaps I love the potential of words. Many years ago an English Major “forced” me to learn the parts of speech and grammar with the explanation “You need to know the rules so you know when and how to break them in the interest of communication and writing well.” Thus I can “write tight” and write tightly.

  24. Melissa Burklow 28 June 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    Funny that an English Major would find a favorite part of speech in spoken English. When I read your note at the end of your post, I couldn’t help but picture someone walking down the street saying, “I am totally, completely, swooningly happy to be skipping gracefully…etc. That’s a lot of “ly.” Personally (another ly), I find them a little cumbersome. My favorite are verbs–without them we would just have a bunch of inactive nouns. Snore.

  25. Ministry Addict 2 July 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Thanks for following my blog. I highly recommend “Woe Is I” by Patricia T. O’Conner, my favorite book on grammar.

  26. Minh-Anh 3 July 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    Thanks for following me at I’m not really big on grammar, but I was wondering – what does this have to do with being an English major?

  27. unsouthernbelle 9 July 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    But adverbs are fun! Thanks for visiting my blog.

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