Shakily-an Evil Adverb

Stacey Kite

Stacey Kite

Shakily may not be a four letter word, but in my opinion it’s much worse. It’s clunky and irritating, and has been in every book I’ve listened to over the last six months. At least a dozen times, each.

Say the word out loud.

Doesn’t it sound awkward?

I believe, though most adverbs are just redundant, they can add to the meaning of a sentence when used in a certain way—I’m working on a post about that—but not shakily.

If you don’t believe me, read the following two sentences out loud.

  • She climbed to her feet, shakily.
  • She climbed to her feet, shaking.

Which sounds better to you?

Both sentences convey the same information, but in my opinion, the second one sounds way better. The first feels off. It grates, and as a listener—yes, I listen to far more books now days than I read—I’ve come to loathe the word. It has an awkward rhythm and never flows.

Why am I going off on one particular adverb?

Because I keep hearing it over and over again in audio-books and I’m vowing to do a word search in order to wipe it from my manuscript.

If you have any hated adverbs on your never use list, let me know what they are so I can add them to mine.


6 responses to “Shakily-an Evil Adverb

  1. Firstly, I must say that I am in total agreement with you. Secondly, I can’t stand most of the “ly” words. I cannot express how much I HATE “firstly, secondly and thirdly”, they are some of the dumbest words in the English language. They are my fingernails down a chalk board, I want to scream!

    • “Ly” adverbs remind me of the old Tom Swiftly puns (sometimes called Tom Swifties) that my former English teacher used to inflict on his classes.
      “I feel a draft,” Tom said coolly.
      “Minus one,” Tom said negatively.

      “She climbed to her feet, shakily,” is only a waddle and a hop from “The ague patient climbed to her feet, shakily” — the former being “serious” (albeit sloppy) writing and the latter an intentional (albeit pitiful) medical redundancy pun.


      Way I see it “ly” adverbs, like snakes in Australia, should be approached with caution. And a significant number of them are best avoided entirely.

      Thank you for the reminder, Stacey.

    • Fourthly, I’m in complete agreement! 🙂

  2. Audiobooks are particularly unforgiving of lazy writing. My eyes might skim a page for the important elements, but my ears listen to every word. It’s a performance, and I take the time to savor it. As a result, phrases that are used too often really stand out. I’ve always been opposed to the popular “long minute,” as all minutes are exactly 60 seconds, but I’ve added “long moment” to the list, as well. It’s technically fine, but it’s terribly overused. My current audiobook–a fantastic listen otherwise–uses it WAY too much. Thank you for this opportunity to vent.

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