Conjunctive-itis

Much as I might wish otherwise, I am not perfect. (Say it ain’t so, I hear you cry.) As a publisher, I’ve brought into print titles that contained typos and errors of fact, that could have used more editing or more time and, certainly, more marketing before they came mewling into this world. As an editor, I’ve cut where I shouldn’t and not cut where I should, and let solecisms slide and participles dangle. As a writer, I’ve allowed a certain facility at writing to gloss over complexities that required more thought and less veneer, and have polished prose to such a high varnish that what’s revealed is superficial sheen and not the grain of consequential thought.

One unfortunate tendency I possess is to overuse the conjunctive adverb: moreover, furthermore, however, nevertheless, likewise, and so on. In moderation, the conjunctive adverb usefully knits sentences and paragraphs together, smoothing the flow of prose and binding the text’s argument. Used too often, the conjunctive adverb begins to weigh the prose down, making it pedestrian and overly explicative. In short, when employed at the start of each paragraph, the conjunctive adverb reveals an argument’s seams, allowing the reader not so much to follow the thread as to pick it apart.

In some fashion, overuse of the conjunctive adverb represents a failure of nerve, a refusal to trust that the reader will understand that juxtaposed sentences either reinforce or contradict each other without the need for the literary equivalent of a finger wagging in their direction. The tic is also a residue of a belief cherished by writers that, to be effective, “fine” writing must possess a high rhetorical color: the stentorian conjunctive adverb provides that dab of scarlet, azure, or aquamarine in an otherwise monochromatic verbal depiction. The skill lies in knowing when to stop bedaubing the canvas. Beware of conjunctive-itis!

About martinrowe

I am the co-founder and publisher at Lantern Books, and the author, editor, and ghostwriter of several works of fiction and non-fiction. I live in Brooklyn, New York.
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