I just got an interesting email from a concerned reader. In my novella, The Back Porch, I use the phrase “holding her close.” My reader asks:
“Shouldn’t this be ‘holding her closely’? Since ‘close’ modifies ‘holding,’ and since ‘holding’ is a verb, shouldn’t it be ‘closely,’ the adverb form?”
Actually, I have to give this reader points for actually asking this as a question, since nine times out of ten, this sort of comment is more of a finger-pointing than a question, but, no, it shouldn’t be ‘closely.’ It could have been, of course, since ‘closely’ certainly is an adverb, but so is ‘close.’ In fact, in my New Oxford American Dictionary the examples given of adverbial usage are these:
- they stood close to the door
- he was holding her close <—Hey, look! My exact phrase!
Or, if you prefer an argument from logic, if I can hold someone up, or hold them down, or hold them off, then why can I not hold them close?
Although this reader gets points for asking (and this wasn’t the only example quoted, as I do tend to use similar constructions, favoring the non-ly version of an adverb over the (generally much clumsier) –ly version), nonetheless I have to wonder what it is about writing style that makes people hunt down an author’s email address and fire off something like this. Nothing at all about the story. No indication of whether she liked it or not. Just “Hey, isn’t this a mistake?”
I don’t know, maybe she’d been given a homework assignment on adverb use or something, and she just happened to find mine.