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How ‘quick’ are you?

October 11, 2010

Using the 80:20 rule (our beloved Pareto principle), 80% of our problems in writing derive from 20% of our misuse of language. There are many instances of such misuse that stand out for me. One is the use of adjectives instead of adverbs. A good example is ‘quicker’. Here is something I noted recently: ‘We can run quicker if we use track shoes’.

I believe the writer meant: ‘We can run more quickly if we use track shoes’.

The first sentence uses ‘quicker’. I’ve followed forums where this usage is debated. Many argue that this use is acceptable since it is so common. Common? In what way? In speech, perhaps. For me this is a good instance of not writing in the way we talk. When talking we can get away with any amount of incorrect grammar; it isn’t so important since we mostly communicate through nonverbal means. But the page is less forgiving. We have to be correct, and exact, to avoid ambiguity. So I would recommend erring on the side of grammatical correctness. Strangely enough, as readers, we like to read grammatically correct text.

And technically? ‘Quicker’ is an adjective that modifies a noun. ‘Quickly’ is an adverb modifying a verb. As a comparative, ‘more quickly’ correctly modifies the verb ‘run’.

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