Words to Never Use, Part 1

Today and next week, we’re celebrating words and expressions that are essentially useless and should be removed from our speech and our writing. This week, we’ll look at those that are high-falutin’ and therefore appear more erudite. Next week we’ll look at those that seem to add a sense of intensity that is both unnecessary and overdone.

First, the “makes me sound smart” expressions:

In order to

This is perhaps that most unnecessary set of words used in written English. (I speak as the reader of hundreds of college essays every year.) Just say to instead and your communication will be clearer and more robust. Try it, even though it might feel more direct and less fancy. In today’s worlds of communication, we don’t need more fancy.

Utilize

This is perhaps the second most unfortunate word choice in college essays. Just say use for the same reasons listed in the above paragraph. If there is a technical field where the two words are used differently, ignore this advice for communication in that field. For the rest of us and for most normal discourse, drop the longer word, substitute the shorter word, and enjoy the reprieve from striving to sound more intelligent.

Note: If you haven’t dropped kinda and sorta from your vocabulary, reread https://dedicatedtogrammar.com/tag/sorta/ and apply it immediately!

 

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Who’s and Whose

This one can be confusing for the same reason that it’s and its can be confusing. That blasted apostrophe in “who” can fool us into thinking it’s a possessive. But it’s a contraction. It combines who and is.

So if you can say, “Who is (whatever),” then you’re OK with using who’s. “Who’s coming over?” and “Who is coming over?” mean the same thing.

But whose means belonging to the person you’re referring to. “Whose coat is this”? is accurate. “Who’s coat is this?” ends up meaning “Who is coat this is?” That’s not cool.

The possessive is whose. Who’s is a contraction of who and is.

The R’s That Aren’t

Today’s entry has to do with pronunciation and a couple of nasty “r’s” that have indecorously intruded into some otherwise wonderful words.

The victimized words are “persevere” and “sherbet.” The first has two r’s—not three. The second has one r, not two.

So what the first word isn’t is per-ser-veer. It’s actually per-suh-veer. (with no r in the middle of the word). In other words, there’s no serve in persevere.

That wonderful summertime confection is not “sure, Bert.” It’s pronounced shur-bit. (I know, the –bet part of the word should technically be pronounced bet, not bit. But it’s enough of a victory to get rid of Bert!)

I don’t know how those sneaky little “r’s” have snuck into those words. But let’s make an effort to keep them out!