Picky, I know.
There are some words and phrases to which I’m allergic. I don’t sneeze when I come across them, but I do shudder. The first is ‘vast majority’ because I rarely see the latter word without the former and, I reason that not all majorities can possibly be that large. The second, which many experts will disagree with, is ‘multiple’, when it is used in place of ‘many’. A third is ‘small’ in place of ”young. Some young people are small and vice versa, but this is not always true; literally is often used when what is meant is ‘figuratively’. Finally, for now at least, I remind readers that in spite of what POTUS may say, nothing is ‘very unique’.
Ugly or bad
Not really ‘ugly; I simply could not find a better adjective. These are just words and phrases that I dislike because they are so pervasive and so often mindlessly used. They include: “So” (when used to start a sentence); “like” (when it has no meaning whatsoever or when it is incorrectly used in place of ‘as’; “you know” (when I don’t have a clue); “at the end of the day” when it is neither the end nor a day and when it has become a cliche); 24/7 (when it would be simpler to say ‘all the time’. Many of these are clichés and the list of these in extremely long.
Good, unused words
I have decided to start a collection of words whose meanings I know but which I almost never use in speech or in writing. Ultimately, the list will be long, but for starters here are a few. The goal of this gathering is to expand my vocabulary and thereby make my writing more appealing. Those here at the beginning of my list have little in common other than the fact that I have seldom used them.
Inured, skullduggery, largesse, provenance, painfully, coffers, dolorous, attest, iteration, remiss, veer, vexing, opaque, frenzy, flout, flaunt, stupefaction, succumb, craves, exhort, narrative, groundless, repugnance.
When I was younger and smarter, I used to teach a course called ‘Scientific Presentations” to epidemiology students. It was intended to cover both writing and oral presentations. In the written part, I often gave feedback on assignments, and one item that I would highlight with the annotation, ‘CW’, was when the choice of word needed to be improved, or at least, reconsidered. Most writers – especially lazy ones – tend to use the first word that comes to mind. But, more often than not, with a bit more thought, we can do better. ‘Nice’ comes to mind: surely, we can come up with something more specific, more colourful, or more informative.
I am not suggesting that you always find a way to work ‘largesse’ into your next essay. But I do want to flaunt (not flout) the suggestion that you give the choice of words more attention. (Actually, ‘flaunt ‘is not the right word either, nor is flout: As the Mirrian Webster dictionary reminds us, “If you treat a convention with disdain you are flouting it. If you make an ostentatious display of something then you are flaunting it.” People often confuse the two.
As well, there are many misused words. The Web has several lists of these ranging from 20 to 58 words long. Some common examples are ‘bring vs take’, ‘less vs fewer’, and ‘lie vs lay’. Pinker, expert on all things linguistic, insists that ‘irony’ and its variation, ‘ironic’, ranks at the top. But, as a good friend who is both a writer and an artist pointed out, these misuses are far more important in writing than when speaking.
But, to keep pointing out such ‘errors’ may simply be ‘picky’. So, I literally stand picked!