Ten Misused Expressions

There are a lot more than ten misused expressions, but we don’t want to be on overload, so here are some randomly picked misused words or expressions. You may notice that some are repeated from other posts, but that is only because I keep seeing those words misused and the reminder bears repeating.

Blah, blah, blah….

Like, you know….

  1. all right – This is the correct spelling. “Alright” is a variant and not generally accepted as correct. Please try to avoid using “alright.”
  2. everyday/every day – “Everyday” (spelled as one word) means ordinary, or usual.  “Every day” (spelled as two separate words) means each day.
  3. as to whether – This is just wordy. You don’t need “as to.” Simply say “whether.”
  4. data, strata, phenomena, media – These are plurals of “datum, stratum, phenomenon, medium.” So the data “are”; not the data “is.”
  5. hopefully – In most cases, this is misused. It means to do something in a hopeful frame of mind. Most likely what you mean to say is “I hope,” or “it is to be hoped.” Be careful with “hopefully.” In most cases it is better left out.
  6. inside of/outside of – When you are referring to a location, leave out “of.” If you mean a time frame (inside of two minutes), it is okay to leave the “of” in place.
  7. like – Do not use “like” in place of “as.” Usually if it is before a phrase or clause, you should be using “as.” (“She ran like her life depended on it,” should be “She ran as if her life depended on it.”) Also, do not insert this word as a meaningless introduction to an adjective  (She was like devastated to hear the way I speak, throwing “like” into my podcast over 400 times). By the way, in a one-hour podcast filled with many uses of “like,” I began counting  and was horrified to find that the person had used 400+ likes an hour. Isn’t that well over the speed limit?
  8. nice – Avoid this tired, vague word.
  9. most – do not use this word instead of “almost.” “Most everyone” should be “almost everyone.”
  10. the foreseeable future – Avoid using this expression. The future is NOT foreseeable; at least not yet.

So blah, blah, blah … Now, you know….

(👍 ͡❛ ͜ʖ ͡❛)👍

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Clear Writing

I love flowers, but not in my reading and writing. Some would-be writers use flowery language thinking that this impresses the reader.

You know the feeling you get when someone flatters you too much and you know it’s mostly b.s. because it is so over the top. You just want to roll your eyes, turn around, and stick your fingers down your throat.

Too many unnecessary descriptors are part of the problem with this kind of language. Too many big words chosen to impress rather than to convey a message. Too much verbiage.

Here are some examples of padded language and how it could be written instead.

Flowery

Joe and I are preparing an elaborate springtime barbecue with delicious nibblies for all our wonderful friends. We would be thrilled to have your scintillating company and that  of your lovely partner when you come and enjoy a happy afternoon with the rest of our honoured guests.

Direct

We would be pleased to have you and Mary attend an afternoon barbecue with friends at our home.

Flowery

I am convinced that you will have a wonderful afternoon while the red robins and the chatty finches keep us company with their trilling melodies, a sure sign that spring is truly arriving in our little corner of the world.

Direct

We can enjoy listening to the spring birds in the afternoon.

Flowery

I can visualize the bustling scene, as animated, vociferous guests demand more bubbling refreshments.

Direct

I can imagine the busy party guests shouting for more champagne.

*****

Using flowery words and too many of them becomes a turnoff for the reader. A related problem is using too many long words when a shorter one would do. If you are trying to convey a clear message, use shorter sentences, and words that are familiar to the reader. Write the way you would talk, unless you are writing a business letter or a report. But even then, keeping the language clear and concise is important. Flowery words have no place in serious writing. The aim is to express yourself clearly, not to show how many adjectives and adverbs you can cram into one sentence.

In Robert Gunning’s book, The Technique of Clear Writing, he has a long list of words that could easily be replaced by more familiar words. Here are some:

abandon         give up, desert

abatement      decrease

abbreviate      shorten

abhorrent       hateful

venturous      bold

voluminous    bulky

Often you can substitute a more familiar word for one that sounds as if it were chosen merely to impress.

If you tend to get too wordy when something simple would suffice, consider this limerick about using too many words.

There was a young man from Japan
Whose limericks never would scan.
When asked why that was,
He replied “It’s because
I always try to fit as many words into the last line as ever I possibly can.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Irky Things

Some expressions are so commonly used that we have come to accept them as correct, when they really are not.

Different than” is one of those. I see it used all the time, but the correct form is “different from.” If you are comparing things and one differs from another, it is different from the other. It doesn’t differ than. It differs from.

*****

Now we have one that is so commonly used that many people are accepting it as correct, but it is NOT.

 “You better” should be “you had better” or “you’d better.”

Better is not a verb unless you mean “to improve,” as in to better yourself. So rather than saying, “You better be careful,” what you should be saying is, “You’d better be careful,” or “You had better be careful.”

In song lyrics, we hear “you better” used often (you better watch out, you better not cry), but I’m willing to bet that originally the words were “You’d better watch out, You’d better not cry.” Regardless, in song lyrics we allow a lot of grammatical horrors. Country music is full of double negatives and misused words but that’s what gives the music its flavour. (Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.)

Flavour up your music if you like, but if you’re doing formal writing, you had better use the correct forms of the language.

*****

Finally, I find that I need to make one more plea to the news anchors to stop misusing “regard/regards.”

Regards are what you send to a friend or relative when you want to send them a greeting. “Please give my regards to my Aunt Mary.”

One news anchor uses it so much that you can almost count on it popping up at least once in each news item. When she’s interviewing someone, she often uses it to segue to the next question.

With regards to the president, how to you think he will handle this situation?”  Why does she have to send the president greetings before she asks about him? Maybe they know each other well?

What she meant to say was, “With regard to the president … blahblahblahblah.”

I’m so glad I got that out of my system again. I find it awful to have to listen to people in jobs way above my paygrade misusing the most common expressions.

 

 

 

More Trouble Words

Troublesome words are everywhere.

Two words that give me a big headache are discreet and discrete.

Discreet is used for people not liable to gossip. You rely on someone to be discreet (careful about what they say or do).

Discrete means more something closer to distinct, or separate. (The plan will progress in a number of discrete stages.)

I think  this is one of those sets of words that I have to put on my trouble list until I can think of a gimmick for remembering which is which.

 

Here is an easier one.

Current/currant

An electric current has an “e” in it. The current news and the current in the river, all have “e” in them.

The currant that looks like a small raisin is something an ant might eat. This currant has an ant in it.

Isn’t it fun?

A Few Irky Things

With so many books being self-published these days, one vital step is often left out because it is a way to save money. Why spend money on a copy-editor when your best friend or your Aunt Mary has already read your book and said it was wonderful?

I can tell you why. It’s to save your reputation as a writer. Your best friend and your Aunt Mary will always tell you, “That’s a lovely book, dear,” but your copy-editor will tell you the truth and so spare you the humiliation of making countless small mistakes and maybe even some big ones.

I’ve frequently heard authors say, “I had my friend read it and she said it was great. She’s a teacher so she knows all about grammar and punctuation.”

Well, surprise, surprise, a lot of teachers make mistakes too. If you have a good copy-editor go through your manuscript, I can almost guarantee you’ll be shocked by the number of errors they find.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately; more than usual because of having a new Kindle. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve groaned over finding errors in the writing. One book I read recently had run-on sentences all over. It drove me crazy! Luckily the plot was interesting so I hung in there, even in spite of the many other mistakes I found, but you can be sure I won’t be reading a second book by that author.

If you’re a writer, this is exactly the reaction you want to avoid.

One of the common mistakes I’ve been finding is in the use of the past tense of certain words.

Here are some examples:

Today I lead my horse to water. Yesterday I lead my horse to water.

Unless the author meant the heavy metal, as in a lead pipe, the past tense of “lead” (leeeeeed) is “led,” not “lead.”

 

He sung a song as he hiked along. No. He sang a song.

He swum across the river. No. He swam across the river.

 

Another mistake I hear almost daily, especially in TV news reports and interviews, is “with regards to.”

This literally means that the person is sending his regards, his greetings, to someone.

The correct way is to say “with regard to,” or “as it regards” something.

 

Lately one of my pet peeves is the misuse of “amount.” This word is used when you are referring to something that is a mass, possibly something that could be weighed in a lump, or, at least, something that can’t be counted individually.

For example, you can have an amount of rain (tons of it coming down in rivers), or if you are referring to individual drops, you would say the number of drops (never the number of rain or the amount of drops). In last summer’s drought I remember saying, “We had about ten drops of rain, but no amount of rain would save my garden at this point.”

You could refer to the amount of garbage that has piled up in the alley, or the number of styrofoam cups in that garbage, but never the number of garbage or the amount of styrofoam cups.

In a crowd you can count the number of people, but not the amount of people, unless you are measuring them by poundage. I can imagine them on all a giant weighing platform.

These are just a few of the irky things I see in unedited or poorly edited books, and they all serve to lower the author in my esteem.

I have been copy-editing for a long time. If I have convinced you that you need me, just leave me a comment. If you don’t need a copy-editor just now, I’d still be happy to hear from you.

 

Why You Need a Copy-editor

Lately I have been reading a lot of crime thrillers. The e-book versions are reasonably priced and I’m reading so many of them that I don’t remember them for long afterwards. It’s a bit like watching an episode of Law and Order or F.B.I. Why bother to remember them unless they are really unique and make a big impression?

Unfortunately, many of the books I’ve encountered as I go through my crime spree of reading, have elicited groans of disgust and frustration from me as I read what might have been a good book, but for the grammatical errors and word usage mistakes.

I won’t even mention lay and lie.

The most original, yet horrifying, error I have seen in a long time was used in a sentence that talked about what the elite do at a public gathering while “the sheeple snap pictures.” I did a double take on that one. “Wha-a-a-a-at?!” I had to read that  over again. “The sheeple snap pictures.” This author needs a copy-editor for sure.

I can’t remember if it was the same author or another one who called one FBI agent by different names throughout the book. Let’s say the agent’s name was Brad Benton. On one page he would be referred to as Agent Brad, and on another he would be Agent Benton, and so it alternated all the way through. All the other agents in the book had only one name each throughout.

Now for an expression that had me growling as I read. Two different characters in this book were described as having intelligent eyes. Can anyone tell me how an eye can have intelligence? I suppose all the other characters in the book had stupid eyes. Not only is it impossible for eyes to be intelligent, but this miraculous phenomenon took place at least six times in the book, once a mere two pages apart.

Puhleeze! Get yourself a copy-editor, unless you want to achieve fame for all the wrong reasons.

 

 

Self-editing

Wrong name and/or wrong pronoun

Lately I’ve been irked by a certain kind of error that I’ve run into more times than I should have. As I was reading some novels for pleasure (as opposed to reading them as a copy-editing job), I was shocked to come across the names of main characters being switched around.

When Tom was meant, Luke was used instead, and vice versa. This happened several times in one novel. I found the same mistake in another novel I recently read, and the wrong pronoun (“her” instead of “him”)  was used.

The author should have caught these mistakes in the self-editing part of the writing process, but since it is not the kind of error that a spellchecker or grammar checker would catch, it can easily go unnoticed.

If you have changed your character’s name after writing the first draft, you might want to have a closer look  for cases of having used the wrong name.

Have you changed your POV?

Also, if you have decided to rewrite your ms with a different POV, it will require close scrutiny when you check your ms for errors. I’ve done this kind of thing myself, where I’ve written several chapters in third person POV and then decided to switch to first person. It can be awkward to read something like:

I hurried down to the dock to wave goodbye. She hoped I was not too late.

Switching pronouns

Another horror of self-editing can happen if you decide to change a character from female to male. Let’s say you decided that a male character would work better in a certain role. You would have to change all the cases of “her” to “him.” To make the job easier you might want to use the Find and Replace feature in your Word program. But be careful not to make sweeping changes without looking at each case first, or you might end up changing “mother” to “mothim,”  “father” to “fathim,” and “other” to “othim.”

It helps to type a space before and after the word “her” in Find. That would avoid words with the letters h-e-r in them from being selected. Trust me, there are a lot of words with these letters in them. You don’t want to have to sort them all out.

And then what?

Self-editing is good and necessary, but, after you have checked your ms for all of these (and many other) errors, it will still be worthwhile to have a copy-editor go through your work. A good copy-editor can save you from embarrassment, and consequent bad reviews, when readers find mistakes in your published work.

If you would like to know more about my copy-editing work, please click the “Copy-editing Services”  tab on the top of this blog. 

***** ACK! It happened AGAIN!*****

I just put up this post and sat down to read a book. I couldn’t believe it would happen again so soon, but the author of yet another book put in the wrong name. 

Mr. Jones is in a conversation with X, discussing the demise of Mr. Smith. Two sentences later, it is Mr. Jones who is referred to as the dead guy. 

The story is going down, down, down in my estimation. This is after several other smaller errors. Sigh….

 

Words that Jar

I know I’ve mentioned some of these misused words and expressions before, but lately I’ve heard them so often, particularly in TV news reports, that I felt another post about them was warranted.

You would think that people who make a living from publishing their reports would get the language correct, and yet, it seems that these reporters and news anchors don’t have anyone supervising their grammar skills. No one suggests to them that they should speak English correctly if they are going to address the public.

They repeat these same mistakes almost daily.

The first one that really bothers me is “regards.” When they mean “pertaining to” or “about” a certain subject, why do they first have to send a greeting to it?

Perhaps they’re going to talk about the tent cities springing up outside high schools in Seattle. First the news anchor has to send his regards to the tent city.

“With regards to the tent city, hi, how are you doing? I’m thinking of you. Have a nice day.”

While they’re at it, why don’t they send their regards to my Aunt Mary and me? We feel left out.

But sending a greeting is what they are doing, when they really meant to say, “And now, about the tent cities….” Or maybe, “And now, concerning the tent cities….” Or maybe, “With regard to the tent cities….”

Okay, I feel better now that I’ve blown off some steam on that one.

*****

Here is another one that really bugs me. Same thing – usually reporters and news anchors misusing the terms.

Amount or number?

If you can weigh it or shove it all together in a mass, the term you want is “amount.

The amount of water in a glass, the amount of garbage in the can, the amount of rice in the pot. These are things that can be measured or scooped up in a heap.

So when I hear them say the amount of people in the crowd, I’m already wondering how many pounds they mean. Maybe there are a thousand pounds of people in the crowd?

Anything that is countable (theoretically) is referred to as a number of things. I said theoretically, because you wouldn’t want to count the number of daffodils growing on a hillside, but theoretically, you could.

Examples:

The number of people in the crowd.

The number of raindrops, but the amount of rain.

The number of grains of sand, but the amount of sand.

The amount of wood in the shed, but the number of pieces of firewood.

The amount of rice, but the number of grains of rice.

The amount of frustration I feel when I hear the news anchor misuse these words, but the number of times I feel that frustration.

AAAARRRGGHHHHH!