Misplaced Adverbs: ‘He sadly died’

Misplaced Adverbs: 'He sadly died’

Every day, we see more and more errors in written texts. Mostly it’s a question of lazy language from those who should do better. Misplaced adverbs can turn a sentence into a nonsense. Here are just three examples.

‘… but he sadly died’

I bet he did. He might not have been looking forward to shuffling off this mortal coil, and there might have been some long, lingering and sad goodbyes. But what if his exit were sudden? No time for tears or regrets, then…

Seriously, though, the adverb is totally misplaced.

It could be written as: ‘… but, sadly, he died’, but that isn’t ideal, either.

To make it clear, it’s better to avoid an adverb altogether and to write: ‘… but, we’re sad to say, he died’, putting the sadness where it belongs – with the speaker, and perhaps others, who are sorry to see him go.

What do you think of this one? 

‘Happily, he only broke a leg’

Adverbs say ‘how’, ‘when’ or ‘why’. In this case it says how he broke a leg. Apparently he broke it happily. Maybe he was having a great time and laughing a lot, but surely that was just before he broke his leg. Hearing that bone cracking would wipe the smile from anyone’s face. 

The meaning is obvious, but it should be written, like the previous example, as: ‘We were happy to hear (or He was happy) that he only broke a leg, (rather than his neck)’. Even so, ‘happy’ is probably not the right word. I’d say ‘relieved’ was more to the point. 

It’s those little slips that signal lazy language. 

One final example:

‘Hopefully, he died’

Am I being callous and cold? No. Just highlighting another blooper. The word ‘hopefully’ is one of the most commonly misplaced adverbs.

What would you write to make it better?

Find out more

What are the most hilariously misplaced adverbs you’ve seen?

More Lazy Language

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