I’m a grammar freak. Every time I hear, “I feel badly” the hair stands up on my neck. Seriously. That’s all it takes. Am I tightly wrapped in this respect? Yes. I don’t feel bad about it at all. When I was a day to day mother, I felt compelled to correct every grammar crime that crossed my path. Help me, I corrected rogue apostrophes on signs. Judd’s grammar is pretty darn good, in spite of my annoying mania. 

My feeble attempts pale compared to those of Joy Behar. Her teaching moment was pure instinct. Once a teacher, always a teacher. She did us all proud, and a big favor. 


Why You Can’t Feel Badly About Sandra Bullock

Once an English teacher, always an English teacher, talk show host Joy Behar corrected her guest Richard Lewis on The Joy Behar Show yesterday when he used the grammatically wrong form of the word “bad” to express his sympathy for actress Sandra Bullock.
Here is an excerpt from the March 24, 2010 episode of The Joy Behar Show on HLN:
Joy Behar: I want to talk to you about Sandra Bullock because, uh…
Richard Lewis: I feel badly for her … I don’t know her…
Joy Behar: You feel bad, not badly!
Richard Lewis: No, that’s an adverb, I can use it…
Joy Behar: No, no you don’t feel sadly, do you? You feel bad. You feel sad.
Richard Lewis: So you call me illiterate in front of your entire audience?
Joy Behar: No, I’m just correcting you…
Richard Lewis: Okay so I used an adverb improperly. Can I say improperly?
Joy Behar: Yes, that’s correct!
Feigning defeat, Richard Lewis seized the “ham sandwich” moment by throwing up his hands in mock frustration, then turning to the audience, whining “Where’s my lunch box?” as if he were a school boy who had just been slapped on the hand with a ruler by his bun-wearing English teacher.
What is the grammar rule for bad vs. badly?
With her English teacher pedigree, it’s not surprising that Behar was grammatically correct in the matter of whether to use the word “bad” vs. “badly” in the context of expressing sympathy for Sandra Bullock. After high school many people mysteriously forget that while action verbs are modified by adverbs (the ly form of the word), linking verbs such as am, is, feel, appears, and looks are modified by adjectives.
The verb “feel” is especially tricky, however, because it can be an action verb or a linking verb. When “feel” is used as an action verb—for instance, a blind person might say, “I feel the Braille dots badly,” it requires the adverb form of the word “bad.” When “feel” is used to indicate a state of being, such as Richard Lewis feeling compassion for Sandra Bullock, the adjective form of the word “bad” should be used, as in “I feel bad for Sandra Bullock, Elin Nordegren, Elizabeth Edwards, Jenny Sanford or (fill in the blank of wronged woman).”