Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Bad" and "Badly"

Level of Distractibility (i.e., the degree to which readers are distracted from meaning by mistaken usage): Who cares? = *; some people will be distracted = **; many people will be distracted = ***.

Question: When shoud I use "bad" and "badly"?

Use "bad" after the verbs "be," "appear," "look," "feel," "seem," "smell" or "taste." Example: "I feel bad." I could give a lengthy grammatical explanation of why these verbs, called "linking verbs," are different from action verbs, but the explanation would be complicated and not worth the time and effort.

Note: If the correct use of "bad" after these verbs sounds "bad," write around it. Example: "He appears bad." "He appears to be seriously hurt." You will probably use more precise word choice. Example: "It sounds bad." "His choice of words is awkward."

Use "badly" after an action verb: "He has been hurt badly. "

The bottom line? NEVER, NEVER say or write, "I feel badly."

As the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage says, "Someone who smells bad should bathe; someone who smells badly should see a doctor."

Rating of Distractibility: ***

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