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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Words that are misused or unnecessary

Some German friends recently asked me to edit a letter they were writing to their neighbours about a matter of mutual concern. Their spoken English is excellent, but they were worried that their grasp of the written word was not so good. As I suggested changes, I realised that some of them would have been made were I editing a similar document written by a person with English as a first language. This took me back to when I was a journalism lecturer and produced for my students a simple guide to some of the errors that irritated me. You may find it of use:


IAN RICHARDSON’S RANDOM HATE LIST OF CLICHÉS AND  MISUSED WORDS AND PHRASES

Calm but tense (and tense but calm)
A nonsense. It can’t be both.
Tiny little village
Villages are, by definition, tiny and little.
Personal friend
Friends are, by definition, personal. But close friend is okay.
…given birth to a baby boy/girl
What else could they be but a baby?
At this moment in time
What’s wrong with “now”?
Head up
Head
Light up
Light
Meet up with
Meet
Up for sale
For sale
Rising up
Rising
…in two years time
In two years.
Consult with
Consult
He/she refuted the allegation
Refute means disprove by argument, not reject/dismiss.
Completely destroyed/wrecked/flooded
Destroyed/wrecked/flooded are self-standing. But partly is okay.
War/flood/fire/conflict situation
War/flood/fire/conflict.
Passed away/passed on
Died
Collateral damage. Neutralise. Take out.
Military euphemisms aimed at hiding the brutal reality of war.
High-speed police chase
“Why high-speed? This is implied by it being a chase.
Rushed to hospital by ambulance
What’s wrong with “taken to hospital”?
Outside of
Outside
Razed to the ground [by fire]
“Razed” means levelled. A brick/stone building is unlikely to be razed.
Imply/infer
You imply in a statement; those listening to/reading it will infer.
Less/fewer
Less for quantities; fewer for numbers.
Amount of people/houses etc
Number of…
Try and…
Try to…
Assisting police with their enquiries
An unnecessary euphemism for “being questioned by police”.
Pre-planned
Why “pre-”? Planning is always in advance of an event.
Fierce fighting
Fighting usually is fierce.
Very unique
Unique.
I’ve got
I have.  Got is an ugly word that usually isn’t needed in a sentence.
Closed off
Closed is usually sufficient.
Finishing/finished off
Finishing/finished
Centred around
Centred on.
Presently
It means soon, not currently. Or it used to.
Mitigate against
No. Don’t confuse mitigate with militate.
Trained up
Trained
Must off
Must have.
Comprised/comprising of
Comprised/comprising
Concensus of opinion
Consensus
Bored of
Bored by
Awesome
A lazy comment. Use only when someone/something really is awesome.
Loved ones
Family and friends is more neutral and accurate.
[I feel] humble
Are you sure you don’t mean proud?
Hiding out
Hiding

For more thoughts on the use of words, visit the Guardian style guide:
and the BBC guide:
and the Daily Telegraph style book:

Ian Richardson’s website and email address:

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