On Writing with Adverbs

Mississippi College Law Review, Vol. 33, No. 3 (2015)

18 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2014 Last revised: 8 Dec 2015

See all articles by James M. Donovan

James M. Donovan

University of Kentucky College of Law Library

Date Written: July 1, 2014


The standard rules for good writing dictate that adverbs should be avoided. They undermine the effectiveness of the text and detract from the author’s point. Students and teachers of legal writing have incorporated this general rule, leading them not only to avoid adverbs in their own writings, but also to overlook them in the writings of others, including statutes and cases. However, as Michael Oakeshott has argued, law happens not in the rules but in the adverbs. To become desensitized to the power of adverbs, or to presume that they are weak and unnecessary, leads the reader not only to misconstrue the operation of the rule, but also to overlook the moral aspect that separates a legal order from a power-based regime of command.

Keywords: Legal writing, composition

Suggested Citation

Donovan, James M., On Writing with Adverbs (July 1, 2014). Mississippi College Law Review, Vol. 33, No. 3 (2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2461381 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2461381

James M. Donovan (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky College of Law Library ( email )

620 S. Limestone Street
Lexington, KY 40506-0048
United States

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics