Writing Craft

A Plea for Preciser Language

Not everyone is a grammar nazi and spelling tyrant as I am. And some people write so brilliantly that spelling and grammar mistakes are more easily overlooked. I don’t know any of those people, but I’m told they exist. The vast majority of writers will do themselves a huge favor if they do their best to use precise language, grammar, and punctuation in everything they produce.

Below are a few incorrect or imprecise usages I see regularly that I plead with you to correct when you write stuff in the future.

Blog v. blog post

It seems as though I see this nearly every day. Someone might say, “Great blog,” when they mean “Great blog post.” I know it seems minor, but to be precise, a “blog” is the site where “blog posts” appear. “Blog” can also be a verb, of course; a blogger blogs by posting blog posts on a blog. Easy peasy, right?

“Fiction novel”

I’ve commented on this pet peeve of mine several times on this blog (in blog posts, no less), but I keep seeing it nonetheless. It’s almost as if no one reads what I write … or no one cares about the things that peeve me. Nonetheless, since all novels are fiction, “fiction novel” is redundantly redundant.

“Could care less”

I saw this in a published book just the other day, and it never fails to stop me short. Please bear in mind that if you could care less, you care some. The correct phrase is “couldn’t care less,” which means, of course, that you don’t care at all.

“Doesn’t jive”

Unless you’re saying that something or someone doesn’t dance or get down with the groovy music, you probably mean it doesn’t “jibe.” “To jibe” means to “match” or align with something else. And a mocking or sarcastic comment is a “gibe,” which seldom jibes with jive.

“Beg the question”

Strictly speaking (which is what we’re doing here, right?), “to beg the question” means to make an argument that assumes the thing it’s trying to prove (as in, “Smoking cigarettes can kill you because cigarettes are deadly”). But people often use the phrase (and some dictionaries have begun to accept it) to mean “to prompt the question,” as in, “Her proposal begs the question, ‘why do we even need a high-speed rail system?’” In my little world, using “begs the question” incorrectly prompts the question, “Does this person’s work have other inaccuracies?”

“Alright”

Although altogether and already are all right, alright isn’t (and yes, I know that some dictionaries and editors allow it, but I’m not alright with them). I plead with you to use “all right,” a’ight?

“Alot”

Similarly, alot is not a word. Allot is, but it doesn’t mean “a lot.” So please don’t use it, not even alittle.

I could go on. And on. As I often do. But correcting just these seven little missteps could greatly improve your pitches and projects. Alot.

 

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