Roger’s Rules

A little lesson in grammar

There have been a couple of comments about my post on Jodi Kantor’s piece in Sunday’s New York Times that take issue with my use of the word “badly.” “What if,” I wrote, “some harm comes to the junior McCain? Would she [i.e., Ms. Kantor] feel badly about that?” One tutelary spirit wrote in to observe en passant (and ungrammatically) that “More correctly, the question would be ‘Would she feel bad . . .'” (The chap should have written something like “It would have been correct to say that . . .”) “Davis,” another would-be benefactor, followed suit with this: “By the way, it’s ‘feel bad,’ not ‘feel badly.’ You’re a bad writer because you write badly, but I don’t feel sadly about it.”

Well, “Davis” should feel sadly, and badly, about it.

I always endeavor to instruct as well as delight, so allow me to introduce these public-spirited individuals–and any readers they may have misled–to the adverb, a part of speech that paradigmatically answers the question how, as in: “How was she feeling?” “Not well. Badly, in fact.” As the American Heritage Dictionary points out, “The use of bad and good as adverbs, while common in informal speech, should be avoided in writing. Formal usage requires: “My tooth hurts badly not bad.”

Update: I should have noted, as several friends have been quick to point out, that, though “badly” is correct, “feel” is a linking verb and therefore the modifier is properly a predicate adjective. John Edwards (remember him?) inadvertently illustrated this in the theme song chosen to accompany the world’s most famous campaign haircut. Watch and listen to it it here.