Or "Clues for the Clueless"
Obnoxious? You bet.
The English language, I am told, has more
ways to express an idea than any other language. Here are
a few ways you'd be better off avoiding:
"Debark" - These
non-words are often heard on commercial airlines.
I was once told by a stewardess that they were
more accurate than the correct term: Disembark.
No, they just make you sound ridiculous. In a
pinch, you could break down and say "get
- instead of 'because'. This is another case of
trying to sound smarter through complicated
speech, like saying "the suspect was
apprehended" rather than "the thief was
caught". "Due to" has nothing to
do with cause and effect. A thing is due to
something else if it is owed, as in
"The mortgage is due to the bank.".
When you hear a broadcaster say "Due to
conditions beyond our control..." it's because
of grammar beyond his control.
- Living things do not have gender in the English
language. Words have gender. The headlong flight
from the word "sex" is nothing more
than terror that the politically-correct thought
police might sue you for saying a dirty word. It
should be stamped out like all attempts at
thought control. I am part of the male sex, but I
have no gender and am proud of it!
"I could care
less" - Unless you are trying
to say that you care very much, it's "I couldn't
as a verb. It is a noun. Things do not impact
other things, nor are they impacted by other
things. They have impact.
- There is no such word. It would be a double
negative. The correct word is
to mean "move to". Locate is a synonym
for 'find'. You can 'relocate' a business to
another city, but if you 'locate' it, you've
found it, not moved it.
to mean "sick". "Nauseous"
means causing nausea, not feeling it. If you
"feel nauseous", you are making other
people sick. The correct term is
- This one's for all you Defense Department
types. Shall implies a legal imperative. Unless
you intend to put the contracts, proposals and
other inanimate objects in jail, you mean to say
This useful link leads to The Elements of Style, by
Strunk and White.
An older, and now frequently amusing
reference is The King's English by Fowler.
I particularly enjoy the "vulgar americanisms".
This book is only for the true philologist.
Please note that the presence of a word in a
dictionary does not mean that it is good English. Many of
the above words appear in dictionaries. Dictionaries
reflect what people say, not what they ought to say. This
is because dictionary companies make money by selling
lots of dictionaries. They care more about popularity
than correct usage. Languages change, of course, but are
better when they change through necessity rather than
It is also true that the best writers ignore the rules
of grammar. If you are one of the best writers, you can
safely do this. Most of us, however, are well served by
learning the laws of plain English and sticking to them
in daily usage.
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