The Vons grocery chain and I have something in common, I’ve observed. A generous professor recently used some of his summer hours to review the senior thesis paper I wrote to help me improve it for graduate school applications. He suggested some restructuring and pointed out that I use too many adverbs, throwing any credibility or authority I might have had right out the window. I’ll admit I often turn to them as an easy way to emphasize a thought, but I try to be creative about it and I wasn’t aware it was such a problem.
Shortly after he alerted me to this – suggesting I comb through the paper and simply pluck each adverb out – I was driving to LA and noticed a couple new Vons billboards for their current ad campaign. The first is a close-up of some nice red cherries, next to a picture of cheesecake with cherry topping. It looks delicious and all that, but it’s hardly noticeable behind the giant and absurd description the Vons marketers placed over it: BRAZENLY SCRUMPTIOUS.
I scoffed, rolled my eyes, wondered who comes up with this stuff…then I realized with terror that my paper is like one enormous Vons ad! I could have written that line! Because I had to turn to marketing slogans because I never got into a literature program at a graduate school because my writing sample was littered with adverbs! I’ve been pulled from a horrible downward spiral from which I might never have escaped on my own.
Having made this brutal realization, I calmed myself knowing that it’s not too late to change my ways. On my way home from LA I saw another billboard: slices of watermelon that are LUDICROUSLY REFRESHING. Ludicrously? Are they kidding? I vowed once and for all to rush home and revise my paper immediately. I would go shopping down every line for all the adverbs, tossing the rotten “immensely’s” and “enormously’s” out, and keeping only the ripe stand-alone adjectives and verbs in my cart.
While cherries and watermelons might be must-have summer favorites, somebody should tell Vons that ridiculous adverbs are not ingredients for life, and certainly don’t make fruit sound any more appealing.