Avoiding Careless Word Usage

…because we all need our readers to feel they’re in good hands when they read us. On account of otherwise they ain’t gonna come back.

Hmm, how many instances of careless usage can you find above? No, wait…don’t tell us. We don’t really wanna know.

Which brings us to careless word attitude…but that’s another subject, thank God.


words-cant-describe

10 Classes of Careless Usage
by Mark Nichol

If you find yourself making any of the following types of errors, general or specific, brush up on your writing with grammar guides and usage handbooksand/or any or all of the other strategies mentioned at the end of this post.

1. Appending an s to words in which, in most usage, the letter should not be included (for example, regards, as in “in regards to”) or that, in American English, have dropped it altogether (backward). (Using the -st ending in such words as amidst and amongst is a similar sign of poor usage.)

2. Using the incorrect form of pronouns — writing, for example, “My friend and myself” instead of “My friend and I” or “That happened to she and I at the same time” rather than “That happened to her and me at the same time.” (If you don’t like the way that sentence looks, either, write, “That happened to both of us at the same time.”)

3. Using unnecessarily complicated words or phrases in favor of simpler, well-established terms: utilize instead of use, “prior to” in place of before,subsequently instead of later.

4. Using nonwords: irregardlesssupposablytheirselves.

5. Using plural forms of words instead of singular ones: “a criteria,” “a phenomena.”

6. Using less when fewer is appropriate: “There are less boxes than I thought” instead of “There are fewer boxes than I thought.”

7. Using euphemisms: “He passed away last year” instead of “He died last year.”

8. Using badly in place of bad in such sentences as “He feels badly about the decision.”

9. Adding extraneous prepositions: “That’s too small of a shirt for you.”

10. Employing erroneous wording of idiomatic phrases: “for all intensive purposes” instead of “for all intents and purposes.”

So, how do you know if you’re making such mistakes? Printing this representative list out and tacking it up next to your computer is all well and good for reminding you about these ten pitfalls, but what about the hundreds of others that plague writers?

A combination of strategies is called for:

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Waitaminnit! We’re TV writers. What do we care about the words? As long as we get the pictures right…no? Really? No?