Friendly Fire, by Scott A. Snook. Copyright 2000 by Princeton University Press
I did when I reviewed Joan Piper’s book, A
Chain of Events, I need to begin with a set of disclaimers.
I am a retired Air Force officer.
I was a Mission Crew Commander (MCC) on the E-3
Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft.
On the date of the shoot-down of the two Blackhawk
helicopters over northern Iraq—April 14, 1994—I was deployed to Riyadh, Saudi
Arabia, to fly missions enforcing the southern no-fly zone over Iraq for
Operation Southern Watch/Desert Calm, the counterpart to Operation Provide
In July 1994, when the first investigation
report was released, I was deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, to fly OPC
missions. I was in the audience at the base theater when the report was briefed
to the aircrews there the evening before it was released to the public.
I knew slightly both of the MCCs who were on the
AWACS crew the day of the shoot-down, and have since gotten to know one of the
senior officers involved in the decisions on who to prosecute or not. I did not
know the one AWACS officer who was ultimately court-martialed but declared not
guilty by the jury.
this book was my second one on the shootdown, I was prepared for another
difficult read. I also came to the book with a fair degree of skepticism. The
author, Scott Snook, was an Army officer: what biases was he going to bring to
the work? I had skimmed the book before I actually sat down with it and was
concerned that, as a psychological study, it was going to be dry and
I’m pleased to say that, on the first count, I think Snook did a fairly good job, although hardly a perfect one. More on that in a moment. On the second count, Snook’s in-depth and cross-level evaluation of the events, non-events, and individual, group, and organizational psychology of what happened was far better than I expected.
It’s common advice in writers’ workshops that adverbs should be replaced with active verbs whenever possible, and that you shouldn’t use too many adverbs. But how many adverbs is too many? I decided to find out.
I went to three respected literary magazines and randomly selected the following three stories:
Bogdonoff, Nathan. ”Indoor Animals.” New England Review, Vol. 39, No. 4 (2018).
Li, Yiyun. “All Will Be Well.” New Yorker. 11 March 2019.
Roth, Philip. “Goodbye Columbus.” Paris Review, Issue 20, Autumn-Winter 1958-1959.
I copied and pasted the stories into Word, searched for “ly” and highlighted the adverbs in blue. Then I copied the phrases or sentences in which they appeared into a separate document, and counted the number of occurrences (no, I am not always this OCD).
Then I averaged the three to find a good target number (okay, maybe I am always this OCD). In all three instances, the number of adverbs represented less than 1% of the total number of words in the story.
What I Learned
Adverbs should represent less than 1% of your total word count.
When you do use an adverb, it should be to describe an action for which there is not a better verb. Examples:
“I never called ahead, and rarely had to wait” – we don’t have a verb that expresses waiting as a rare occurrence.
“I may say it a bit too ringingly, too fast, too up-in-the-air, but I say it” – again, there’s no particular verb to express this particular style of speaking
“The fawn is peeing, steadily and unabashedly, all over the floor.” – I don’t mean to be gross, but we don’t have a polite verb for sustained or shame-free urination.
Sometimes, adverbs are used deliberately for effect:
“these were my most tiresome traits, and I used them tirelessly”
“They looked like two lambs, impeccably prepared by their elders as sacrifices to appease a beast or a god.”
Sometimes it seems to be about characterization or voice:
“She dove beautifully”
“The darker it got the more savagely did Brenda rush the net”
“I wasn’t entirely free from the demands of stating my opinions”
Adverbs also appear to be commonly used to express time:
As part of the ongoing Spotlight on Speakers series, the Huachuca City Library invites you to come and see The Tombstone Vigilettes. This Tombstone re-enactment group includes six ladies and one gentleman. Each member wears period clothing and explains how his/her garment reflects Tombstone life during 1860 to 1915.
There will be a mini-fashion show, including a “tea” dress and gymnasium attire! Vintage objects will also be displayed.
Information obtained from Huachuca City Public Library flier.
Mark your calendars for this event: Thursday, March 14th at 10 a.m. at the Huachuca City Town Hall, 500 N Gonzales Blvd. For more information, you may call the library at 520-456-1063.
As part of the Spotlight on Speakers series, Gabrielle LaFargue will present an historical overview of the land designated as the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area by the Bureau of Land Management in the late 1980s. The 1880s silver boom was significant to the development of this area.
A slideshow presentation will include historical photos as well as flora and fauna photos of this important natural habitat.
This event will be held on Thursday, March 7th at 10 a.m. at the Huachuca City Town Hall located at 500 Gonzalez Blvd.