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Sentence adverbs work a treat in persuasive writing, especially speeches and report, but also in formal letters. They convey the writer’s attitude, but in a formal way – and in a way that can make the writer’s opinion sound more like a fact.

A sentence adverb qualifies or comments the whole sentence or clause rather than just one part – not the really in ‘really slow’ or the quietly in ‘quietly spoke’, but the ‘Unfortunately’ in ‘Unfortunately, that was the last piece of bread.’ Typically, they’ll come at the beginning of a sentence, but not always: ‘That was the last piece of bread, unfortunately’; ‘That, unfortunately, was the last piece of bread.’

Here are some that work well in formal writing:

  • Regrettably, the city lacks the funding to host a marathon
  • Shockingly, there are still pockets of poverty in our country.
  • Supposedly (not supposably), divorce is declining in this country.
  • Interestingly, most pupils preferred the old-fashioned textbooks.
  • Controversially, the law applied only to men born after 2000.

(A little light googling brought up the following, by no means comprehensive, list )

There’s a wee controversy about the use of certain adverbs as sentence adverbs. A sentence adverb should have the same meaning as ‘It is … that’, for example ‘It is regrettable that the city lacks the funding to host a marathon.’ This does not hold true for the words thankfully or hopefully, as ‘It is hopeful that’ and ‘It is thankful that’ is nonsense. Best avoid them if you want to be on the same side as the grammarians – remember your examiner might be one! This is easily done by saying something like ‘I am hopeful that’ or ‘We should all be thankful that…’

And these are examples, by the way, of ‘emphatic sentence starters’, which are – coincidentally – the subject of my next post.

Happy New Year, by the way. I saved that for those of you who read to the end. If I’d been in a harsher mood, I might even have reserved it for people who took up the following challenge…

Challenge

Write one paragraph of a speech against animal cruelty. Include at least two sentence adverbs.

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