Many writers, especially the official, have a trick of instinctively using one of these adverbs to qualify all adjectives of measure or quantity such as long, short, many, few, heavy, light. It is a curious habit, only to be explained by a shrinking from definite statement; and it is therefore a bad one. These words should be used only when a comparison is made with something else; they are words of exact meaning, and it is wrong to use them merely for the purpose of watering down the precision of a statement. It would not be easy to defend the adverb in:
Today hosts of men and women earn their living by doing monotonous repetitive work which demands relatively little skill....
But it is rightly used in:
Over six hundred fresh cases of influenza have been reported but comparatively few are of a severe type.
Unduly is another adverb that seems to prompt writers to the same sort of meaningless use. In the sentence "there is no need to be unduly meticulous" unduly is doing no work; the writer meant "there is no need to be meticulous". But unduly contributes to the meaning in the sentence "The speech was not unduly long for so important an occasion".
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