There, the dog Argos…as he had perceived that Odysseus had come close to him; he wagged his tail, and laid both his ears back; only he now no longer had the strength to move any closer to his master, who, watching him from a distance, without Eumaios noticing, secretly wiped a tear away. – Odyssey, Book XVII, 300-305 (trans. Richmond Lattimore)


Everybody gets performance reviews.  I get them.  I get student feedback.  I get observed. I am told, reminded, informed, regaled, chided, praised, warned, noted in passing.  I do a lot of things wrong.

Only the word is actually wrongly.  It’s an adverb.

Wrong is a value word.  In ethical theory, Wrong is the opposite of Right, which is itself the action or behavior which emerges from a moral position based in intent and will, not in consequence or outcome.  Consequential theories use the words “Good” and “Bad” to describe their outcomes; nonconsequential and virtue theories use the words “Right” and “Wrong.”  Wrong is an ill-intentioned motive, an ill will, a means to an end, an injustice.

Wrongly, the adverb, means, “You screwed it up.  A bit.”

You added that up wrong.

Surely that is not an ethical judgment.  It is a qualification.

You did the assignment wrong.

Rarely do I ever say that to a student.  I’m more likely to note something on their paper like, “I would have liked to see you focus on X rather than Y,” or “Explain in what way your response provides clarity on Z.”

So today, in Writing 101, we were told if you write using a lot of adverbs, you’re doing it wrong.


We’ve all heard it.


Show, don’t tell.  Use active verbs. Should we use those verbs


I watched my dog today when I came home.  My head was pounding, as it had been


all day, but watching her made me feel a little better. You know, dogs NEVER tell; they can’t.  They can only show.  But I realized that


dogs are always speaking in adverbs, because the tail does not


wag; it wags

frantically or eagerly

the eyes do not shine but shine


the love is given


and so, my head still hurting and my mind wandering


I write this piece with the warm dog pressed up against my legs

comfortingly, trustingly

and even the wily Odysseus has to wipe a tear away


So I say


Screw You, assignment Day 8.

You’re wrong.