General Question

6rant6's avatar

How would you compare these two sentences?

Asked by 6rant6 (13629 points ) March 9th, 2012

I’m reviewing another writer’s work, and I note a systematic difference in the placement of adverbs from what seems right to me. I think it should be one way, and she obviously thinks it should be the other. I’m curious whether you discern any difference in meaning and whether you believe one way superior to the other.

she saw him watching her anxiously with that goofy grin.
she saw him anxiously watching her with that goofy grin

Her scrutiny slowly shifted to…
Her scrutiny shifted slowly to…

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22 Answers

whitecarnations's avatar

For me I get a sense of urgency when the adjective is in front of the verb. It’s more of a flow thing in the presentation. It’s fun to go back and forth otherwise the reader catches on.

6rant6's avatar

@whitecarnations Could you clarify what you’re saying?

This: Her scrutiny slowly shifted to… seems urgent? Is there another way you could put it to help me understand what you mean?

JLeslie's avatar

I like the first sentence in the first set, and the first sentence in the second. Which I think means I am inconsistent about where I prefer the adverb placement.

Actually, in the first set it conveys a slightly diffent meaning to me. Watching her anxiously, kind of means to me he is waiting for her possibly; while anxiously watching means he is full of anxiety, but from afar. But, they could mean the exact same thing. I am sure it is better conveyed within the context of the paragraph.

Honestly, I think they are both ok in both cases.

whitecarnations's avatar

@6rant6 Okay so within that sentence example “slowly” is the adj. and the “shifted” is verb. so for me when I hear the description first (adj.) followed by the verb it just adds a sense of urgency from the writer to the reader.

shimba's avatar

I’d go for following.

she saw him watching her anxiously with that goofy grin…
she saw him anxiously watching her with that goofy grin…

Who’s anxious?

Her scrutiny slowly shifted to…
Her scrutiny shifted slowly to…

What do you stress on? is it shifting movement? or slow pace?

Got the emphasis?

SavoirFaire's avatar

I would personally use “she saw him anxiously watching her with that goofy grin” and “her scrutiny slowly shifted to,” but I wouldn’t criticize someone for writing it differently.

Bent's avatar

Either is correct, as long as you are not splitting an infinitive (“to boldly go”). It’s good to use a mix of adverb placement, especially if there is more than one adverb in a single paragraph, otherwise the writing looks and feels “stilted”. Other than that, it’s a matter of personal preference and in most cases the meaning is not affected.

However, it’s even better to do away with adverbs wherever possible, and find other ways to express their meanings if you can.

JLeslie's avatar

@Bent Why? Why do away with adverbs? How would you rewrite the sentences without adverbs so they are better? I try to do away with the word “got.” I can almost always reword with a better verb, but a distaste for adverbs I don’t understand.

Bent's avatar

I was taught that over-use of adverbs is generally considered (by publishers) to be “lazy writing”.*

As an example I might rewrite the first example sentence as “She saw him watching her with an anxious, goofy grin”. Or I might just take out the anxious altogether, and demonstrate his anxiety in another way, like maybe drumming his fingers on the table or something.

I’ll confess I can’t think of a way to re-write the other one and in that sentence I’d leave the adverb in.

* Caveat: I was taught this in the UK, about 20 years ago. Rules and opinions may have changed since then, and it may be totally different in the US.

stardust's avatar

I prefer she saw him anxiously watching her with that goofy grin and Her scrutiny shifted slowly to…

noraasnave's avatar

The adverbs that describe time make more sense when discovered first in the sentence….talking about timing last means the sentence has to be reread with the timing in mind…otherwise the reader decides what the timing is…only to find out later in the sentence that the timing was dictated…very slightly annoying.

If the other descriptive words hinted at timing…then sharing it later in the sentence wouldn’t matter, for instance:

The killer methodically, tip toed, across the linoleum slowly and carefully.

My 2 cents.

whitenoise's avatar

1) she saw him watching her anxiously
2) she saw him anxiously watching her

I feel there is a small difference:
In the first sentence she saw him watching her, while he was being anxious.
In the second sentence she saw him watching in anxious way.

Anyways… both sentences could do with some commas, if one asks me.

submariner's avatar

OP: You framed this question in terms of what is “right”. In these examples, both are grammatically correct and there is no difference in meaning. There is a perhaps a barely appreciable difference in emphasis.

Zaku's avatar

I’m with submariner that the main difference is in emphasis. If you see someone anxiously watching, the emphasis is on the anxiousness – perhaps that’s what made you notice them. If you see someone watching anxiously, it more like you saw them watching, and they were doing it anxiously. Same difference with shifted slowly or slowly shifted. The first word has more focus or emphasis.

wundayatta's avatar

Makes no difference to me.

misty123's avatar

@submariner, @all :What is the full form of “OP”? I googled, but it didn’t show me accurate answers.

6rant6's avatar

@misty123 OP= “Original poster,” aka me.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@misty123 “OP” can stand for “original post” or “original poster.” That is, it can refer to the post that started a conversation or the person who posted it.

misty123's avatar

@6rant6 @SavoirFaire : Thanks for quick replies. When I googled, it showed me this. I know it makes no sense.

6rant6's avatar

Yes, “Out of Parade” would fit me as well. Sigh.

misty123's avatar

@6rant6 : lol. I couldn’t sleep day before yesterday, but why?

I was scratching my head and trying to search the full form of OP. shame on me

Nimis's avatar

If it were just…
She saw him watching her anxiously.
She saw him anxiously watching her.
...I’d be fine with either one.

But since it’s…
She saw him watching her anxiously with that goofy grin.
She saw him anxiously watching her with that goofy grin.
...I’d go with the second one. There’s a lot going on and keeping the adverb with the verb (versus being separated by her) seems cleaner/clearer to me.

For the second example…
Her scrutiny slowly shifted to…
Her scrutiny shifted slowly to…
...I prefer the second one. But either one is fine methinks.

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