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I was typing the following sentence in Microsoft Word:

This theme is outlined more nuancedly in this novel.

but it marked the word "nuancedly" as being non-existent.

I did a search on Google and only found ~300 results of this word. On The Free Dictionary, there is no record of the adverb of "nuanced", either.

So, is "nuancedly" indeed not an existing word? I do believe one can put "-ly" after any adjective to make an adverb, but this case confuses me a little bit.

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As always, it depends what you mean by 'word'. – Barrie England Dec 16 '11 at 12:23
@Barrie England: That's a good point. I meant to ask whether it is correct English. – pimvdb Dec 16 '11 at 12:27
nuance is found more in recent use (C18 <French, more popular since C20) while nuanced is of much more recent origin, it seems. As for nuancedly, the word sounds rather difficult to comprehend. – Kris Dec 16 '11 at 12:30
@pimvdb: 'Correct English' prompts a similar question. As for 'nuancedly', all I can say is that I've never heard of it, and that it isn't in the dictionaries I normally use. – Barrie England Dec 16 '11 at 12:38
It "is a word", in that it's made up of English words and affixes combined in an understandable way. But for some reason, adverbs made up of a word ending in "-ed"+ly usually sound extremely strange and contrived - I can't think of a single one that is commonly used - so people don't use them. – alcas Dec 16 '11 at 13:57
up vote 4 down vote accepted

You're probably thinking of the general rule:

Adjective + '-ly' = Adverb

taking a noun modifier and converting it to an adjective or verb modifier. If X is the adjective, then 'X-ly' means 'in an X manner'.

Some examples are quick -> quickly, careful -> carefully.

But rules aren't perfect. 'fastly' is not a word, 'brownly' and 'sevenly' are not words.

Also, just because there is the possibility that a rule could apply, other forces can come in to play. In English (and in most languages), the sequence 'tl' is ... inopportune (hard to pronounce for adult speakers). Even if the adverb construction made semantic sense, the construction of adding '-ly' would still not be felicitous sounding and people would tend to avoid it.

There are exceptions to this exception, which are not really exceptions. For example 'forcedly' is a word, except that 'forced' (pronounced /forst/) when converted is pronounced /for.sed.liy/, creating an additional syllable which helps separate the 't/d' from the 'l'.

In general, taking a past participle as an adjective and trying to form an adverb out of it by appending '-ly' comes out sounding infelicitous (i.e. 'nuancedly' just ain't a word and probably won't catch on no matter how much you push it). So don't bother trying. You can easily and more fluidly get around this by saying 'in a nuanced manner'. As far as style is concerned, you don't want to use this pattern too much (more than once or twice in a document), but you probably wouldn't want to use the pattern 'uncommon ADJ+-ly' too often either.

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The nuances of this theme are outlined in the novel perhaps?

I certainly wouldn't use nuancedly. While people might grasp what you are getting at, it's a bit clumsy and unclear.

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Your version misses the meaning. Either the present novel is more nuanced than some other novel, or the present theme is given more subtly than is some other theme. (Not enough context is given to say which.) – jwpat7 Dec 16 '11 at 18:54
I disagree completely. The nuances do not concern the novel but the theme. The OP is stating that this novel does outline the nuances, the subtle variations, of the theme. – CJM Dec 16 '11 at 19:56
On the other hand, the fact that we disagree lends weight to the idea that the original sentence is probably inappropriate, if only because it is unclear. – CJM Dec 16 '11 at 19:58
Yes. Anyhow, the original sentence is not about nuances of a theme, it is about the presentation of the theme being more subtle. Your sentence says the nuances of a theme are discussed, i.e. the novel discusses a theme. The original says a theme exists in the novel, a theme that is developed more subtly or carefully in the novel than somewhere else. – jwpat7 Dec 16 '11 at 20:08

Nuancedly is not a word. It has no entry in any English dictionary.

According to NGram Viewer, there is no trace of nuancedly in books neither.


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Dear hit-and-runner, why did you downvote? – Mehper C. Palavuzlar Mar 13 '15 at 22:16

It is a word, and several writers have used it (see e.g. the citations at https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/nuancedly). But it's not common and not recorded in most dictionaries; many native speakers perhaps (for whatever reasons) consider it ungainly.

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