It was a doomed love story, perhaps more tragic than Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” But our sweethearts were not parted by feuding families in fair Verona, but by a more insidious cause: adverbs.

Adverbs, those modifying words for verbs, are so easily spotted, as most politely identify themselves by ending in ly, though some don’t. In the last sentence, “so,” “easily” and “politely” are adverbs. Any of them could be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence.

That’s why author Stephen King has a strong distaste for adverbs. Says he, “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they're like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day ... 50 the day after that ... and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it's — GASP!! — too late.”

Overly dramatic, perhaps, but you have to expect that from a guy who writes about clowns in sewers and rabid dogs.

Back to our story. Here is an actual, verbatim transcript of a tender dialogue between two young, moonstruck lovers, which I just made up, set in a strange, long-ago, distant place: Berkeley in the 1970s.

Lee: “I love you, my dearest.”

Leah: “And I think lovingly of you as well.”

Lee: “But do you love me, or do you just think of me with affection?”

Leah: “Oh, no, Lee. I achingly await each blessed hour we can happily be together, though remembering painfully the times we’ve been cruelly kept apart.”

Lee: “You’re getting closer, but just say the three words that I long to hear.”

Leah: “You mean, ‘I love you,’ without a modifier? How cold and empty it sounds!”

Lee: “Something like that.”

Leah: “What if I speak thusly: Lee, verily, I love thee, with all my heart. And it’s miraculous as we only recently met —that our souls should bind us so tightly to each other so quickly is heavenly ordained!”

Lee: “Use plain speech, my love. Do not bury your words in perfumed clouds.”

Leah: “If it is my tongue that gives offense, let us speak mutely, and yield our podium to our swiftly beating hearts to do our talking.”

Lee: “It was not the tongue but the words that gave offense. The tongue was doing just fine.”

Leah: “Then you speak plainly, my love. Do you truly, perfectly, completely, and eternally love me?”

Lee: “Ay! Such conditions! Yes, yes, yes, if these words are necessary to prove my love, I say them now in my heart just as you have from your lips.”

Leah: “And I, for my part, swear to speak in plain words and be forever thankful, Lee.”

Lee: “That does it! The adverb that broke the camel’s back. Farewell!” thanks his Grammar for learnin’ him how to rite.

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