Daniel Handler (better known by his nom de plume Lemony Snickett) wrote a book of short stories called Adverbs, which I read circa 2008 as a student of creative writing. I was into adverbs at the time. I thought they made me sound smart.
I was also into Films Noir, which led me to the 2005 Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. It’s a Val Kilmer/Robert Downey, Jr. movie which was kind of meant to relaunch their respective careers post-Batman/rehab.
So picture 21-year-old me, sitting in my apartment with the lights all the way up, when we come to this scene: (uh, swear words ahead)
(If you don’t want to watch, here’s the gist of the dialogue)
Harry (Robert Downey, Jr.): Umm, clearly I’m interrupting. I feel badly.
Harmony (Michelle Monaghan): Bad. You feel bad.
Harmony: Badly is an adverb. So to say you feel badly would be saying that the mechanism which allows you to feel is broken.
And I realized that I’d been using adverbs wrong my whole life. A life changing moment, I think you’ll agree.
So here is a little grammar lesson. When you want to use an adverb, first make sure you don’t sound like a dunce. Try twisting the sentence around like so:
“I need to go to the bathroom so badly.”
“I am bad at needing to go to the bathroom.”
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
“To be frank, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”