V. WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS COMMONLY MISUSED
- (Many of the words and expressions here listed are not so much bad
English as bad style, the commonplaces of careless writing. As illustrated under Feature,
the proper correction is likely to be not the replacement of one word or set of words by
another, but the replacement of vague generality by definite statement.)
- All right. Idiomatic in familiar speech as a detached phrase
in the sense, "Agreed," or "Go ahead." In other uses better avoided.
Always written as two words.
- As good or better than. Expressions of this type should be
corrected by rearranging the sentence.
|My opinion is as good or better than his.
||My opinion is as
good as his, or better (if not better).
- As to whether. Whether is sufficient; see under
- Case. The Concise Oxford Dictionary begins its
definition of this word: "instance of a thing's occurring; usual state of
affairs." In these two senses, the word is usually unnecessary.
|In many cases, the rooms were poorly ventilated.
||Many of the rooms
were poorly ventilated.
|It has rarely
been the case that any mistake has been made.
||Few mistakes have
- Certainly. Used indiscriminately by some speakers, much as
others use very, to intensify any and every statement. A mannerism of this kind,
bad in speech, is even worse in writing.
- Character. Often simply redundant, used from a mere habit of
of a hostile character
- Claim, vb. With object-noun, means lay claim to. May be
used with a dependent clause if this sense is clearly involved: "He claimed that he
was the sole surviving heir." (But even here, "claimed to be" would be
better.) Not to be used as a substitute for declare, maintain, or charge.
- Clever. This word has been greatly overused; it is best
restricted to ingenuity displayed in small matters.
- Consider. Not followed by as when it means,
"believe to be." "I consider him thoroughly competent."
- Dependable. A needless substitute for reliable,
- Due to. Incorrectly used for through, because of, or owing
to, in adverbial phrases: "He lost the first game, due to carelessness." In
correct use related as predicate or as modifier to a particular noun: "This invention
is due to Edison;"
- Effect. As noun, means result; as verb, means to
bring about, accomplish (not to be confused with affect, which means "to
As noun, often loosely
used in perfunctory writing about fashions, music, painting, and other arts: "an
Oriental effect;" "effects in pale green;" "very delicate
effects;" "broad effects;" "subtle effects;" "a charming
effect was produced by." The writer who has a definite meaning to express will not
take refuge in such vagueness.