New Adventures of the Compassionate Curmudgeon

In which I tend to rant. A lot. But compassionately...

People Are Stupid - # 5 In a Series

It's not just Republicans who are stupid.

Often the folks who hand out advice are exceedingly stupid also.

Particularly writing advice. (No, I'm not referring to William Safire. Not this time.)

Case in point: Macmillan Dictionary Blog.

Geoffrey Pullum's latest column on Lingua Franca rails against a post on Macmillan Dictionary Blog. Macmillan suggests purging all adverbs and adverbial phrases from one's writing and concludes: "Usually the meaning is still exactly the same but the piece is far easier to read."

Mr. Pullum replies:

I want to hang my head and cry when I see writing advice as boneheadedly misguided as this (and unfortunately that’s way too often).

Take a look at the last sentence quoted: “Usually the meaning is still exactly the same but the piece is far easier to read.” The [italicized] words are all adverbs, so under its author’s advice the sentence should have read, “The meaning is the same but the piece is easier to read.”

If adverbs are monsters, and the main point of the piece is to recommend deleting them all, what happened here? Either the advice-giver is so stupid that he believes his advice but didn’t notice his own four flagrant violations of it, or the advice is so stupid that no advice-giver would dream of applying it to someone sensible like himself. I don’t see any other possibilities.