Make Your Editor Cry: -ally vs. -ly in Biblical

Make Your Editor Cry:  -ally vs. -ly in Biblical

While all adverbs in “-ly”, there are “-ly” adverbs and “-ally” adverbs. Basically (see what I did there?) you just have to memorize which is which. But it’s a pretty easy rule with most English words and should work out beautifully (see what I did there?). Here you go.

A 3 Part Rule to change ADJECTIVES into ADVERBS!

  1. Add the ending “-ally” to adjectives that end with the letters “-ic” to form adverbs.
  2. Add the ending “-ly” to any other adjectives to form adverbs.
  3. For adjectives that end in with the vowel “-e” or letter “-y,” you still just add “-ly” but they sometimes have special sub-rules to drop the “-e” or change the “-y” to an “-i” first.

You’re welcome.

If you find this simple rule beautiful [adjective], you can employ it beautifully [adverb] by adding “-ly”.

If you find a way to make this rule automatic [adjective ending in “-ic”], you can employ it automatically [adverb] by adding “-ally”.

Sometimes you have to drop the ending vowel “-e,” or change an ending letter “-y” into a vowel “-i” —and sometimes not because it isn’t an absolute rule that abslutely always applies–before affixing the appropriate adverbial ending. Words like that can easily confuse an easy rule. It simply messes up a simple concept. But most of the time we advisably, amicably, and agreeably deal with those cases in a way that is advisable, amicable, and agreeable (he said dryly in his most dry tone of voice).

Okay, so maybe it isn’t so simple with adjectives that end in “-e” or “-y“. Don’t get angry because angrily tangling with those doesn’t work. Just know that the adverb of dry is dryly, but the adverb of icy is icily. The adverb of simple is simply but the adverb of absolute is absolutely. Etcetera. Yes, it doesn’t seem to make sense. No, there really isn’t a simple tip to help. These you just have to know, or else look up if there’s a question.

The good thing is that words like academic, artistic, athletic, domestic, dramatic, emphatic, energetic, fantastic, etc., are straight forward. The adverb effortlessly becomes academically, artistically, athletically, domestically, dramatically, emphatically, energetically, fantastically and that’s that.

Infuriating exceptions: Confusingly, there are some rare adjectives that end in -ic, that just take on the -ly ending to properly spell the adverb. Examples are anticly and publicly. The words antically and publically exist, but most dictionaries list them as “nonstandard” or “less common”.

For the nitpickers, yes, you will find them in dictionaries, but remember that dictionaries are authoritative sources for proper spelling. They are not arbiters of highly literate or correct writing. All they do, and all they have ever done, is document word usage. You will also find words like irregardless and ain’t in many dictionaries, even though no self-respecting writer would ever use those words outside of dialogue.

So obviously, some rule breaking exception words are a bit of a stretch.

But what about the adjectives ending in -ic that are converted into adverbs by adding -ally rather than simply adding -ly? Words like typically, logically, radically, and statistically, for example?

Whoops. Take a closer look. In each of those words, while -ic is a common element inside the word, the adjective forms don’t actually end in -ic but rather in -al. Therefore, we are affixing the adverb ending -ly to the adjectives typical, logical, radical, statistical and so on, not to typic [?], logic, radic [?], or statistic which either form nonsense-words or nouns, not adjectives. So, you just affix the -ly ending to the adjectives to form adverbs in keeping with the rule.

One like this we often have to contend with is biblical in nature. There is the Bible and there are things that are biblical (note that “ic” inside the adjective) and it’s adverb form biblically. The word biblicly is not a thing, or a word. Keep in mind that we are affixing the -ly to the word biblical that ends in -al. We are not affixing the ending –ally to the word biblic that ends in -ic because the root “biblic” is now obsolete (biblic [also biblico] meaning biblical (probably from Medieval Latin biblicus, from biblia Bible + Latin -icus ic) + English -o-) and therefore no longer a thing, or a word.

To sum up: Bible, biblical, biblically.

As a side note, most style guides agree that the word Bible is always capitalized in reference to sacred Christian writings comprising the Old Testament and New Testaments. However, biblical and biblically should probably not be capitalized and traditionally haven’t been.

CMOS says: “CMOS does not capitalize “biblical,” nor has it ever…”

AP says: “Capitalize Bible… Use lowercase when using biblical in all uses.”

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