A common grammatical error is the use of an adjective when the adverbial form of the word is required. Consider these examples, found via online search:
- “Lake-goers should avoid boating at night and should go slow any time of day, especially the first time they get on the lake after the flood.”
- “The clear, science-based judgment must be that menthol cigarettes are not more harmful than non-menthol cigarettes…. A menthol cigarette is, well, just another cigarette, and should be treated no different.”
- “Just try to eat healthy most of the week, and relax when you are at social gatherings.”
The correct phrasing for each of these sentences is as follows: “go slowly,” “treated no differently,” and “eat healthfully.”
The above guidance is simple and straightforward. But things can get tricky.
Some people commit the opposite mistake of using an adverb when the adjectival form is correct. Garner’s Modern American Usage cites this erroneous example: “Chop the onions finely.” Here, finely should be fine. Garner explains: “The sentence does not describe the manner of chopping, but the things chopped. The onions are to become fine.”
Similarly, many people say “I feel badly.” The individual who is experiencing sadness or regret should instead say “I feel bad.” Unless, as some language gurus joke, one has a medical condition that has diminished the sensation in one’s fingertips.[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]