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Common Mistakes New IEW Writing Students Make Using -ly Adverbs

Are you a parent or editor tasked with helping your child or student improve their writing skills using the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) method? Don't worry; you're not alone! Writing is a skill that can be challenging, especially for newcomers, and understanding the intricacies of the IEW system can be equally daunting. That's why we're here to help.

In this blog post, we're going to delve into one of the most common mistakes new IEW writing students tend to make when trying to use -ly adverbs. We'll break down what this mistake is, why it occurs, recommend valuable editor resources, and provide actionable tips for you to support your young writer. So, let's get started!

Understanding Mistake #1: Underlining -Ly Imposters

One of the first descriptive words IEW students learn to add to their writing is the -ly adverb. However, many new students make the common mistake of using imposters instead. What are -ly imposters, and why do they matter in the IEW writing process? -Ly imposters are adjectives that end with the suffix -ly. These adjectives can be easily mistaken for adverbs, which serve a different grammatical function. To illustrate this mistake, consider the following example:

Incorrect: "The friendly neighbors brought us a cake when we moved into our new home."

In this sentence, "friendly" appears to be an adverb due to the presence of the -ly suffix. However, it is an adjective describing the neighbors. The correct sentence should be:

Correct: "The neighbors kindly brought us a cake when we moved into our new home."

The key distinction is that adverbs typically answer questions like "how" or "when." In this case, "kindly" answers the question "How did they bring the cake?" This common mistake occurs primarily because students often see the -ly suffix and automatically assume it's an -ly adverb.

Why Do Students Make This Error?

Understanding why students make this error is crucial for effective correction and improvement.

Here are some common reasons:

  1. Automatic Assumption: Students often see the -ly and automatically assume the word is an -ly adverb, leading to the error.

  2. Lack of Reference: Some students may not have a list of -ly adverbs and common -ly imposters readily available in their learning area, making it challenging to differentiate between the two.

  3. They Don't Know the Questions Adverbs Answer: Understanding the questions that adverbs answer is important for students to know. In general, adverbs answer the questions "how, when, where, why, how often, how much, to what extent, and under what conditions." In particular, adverbs ending in ly answer "how" or "when."

What can you do to help?

To help your child or student avoid this mistake, we recommend doing the following:

  1. All -Ly Words Are Not Adverbs: Make sure your student knows that every word ending in -ly is not automatically an adverb.

  2. Ask the Right Questions: Make sure they know that adverbs tell a reader more about a verb, adjective, or another adverb. If the word ending in -ly does not describe one of these parts of speech, it is probably an imposter. Ask two questions to determine this. What word is this -ly word telling us more about? What part of speech is that word?

  3. Use one of these resources.

    1. IEW's SSS Portable Walls. This resource provides a list of -ly adverbs and imposters that can be a valuable reference point for students. The only criticism I have of this list is that it can be overwhelming for students and sometimes parents.

    2. Banish Boring Words book by Leilen Shelton. This book breaks the -ly adverbs into categories of commonly used adverbs and offers a short list of ly adverbs that share the same meaning. I actually like this resource the most because the list of words is broken into groups, making it easier for elementary and middle school students to use them.

    3. Make Posters. Post a wordlist that is visible in your child's learning area with -ly adverbs and common imposters. Make sure they understand that -ly adverbs usually answer the questions "how" or "when."

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