‘Abandon hopefully all ye who enter here’

October 14, 2011

I know it’s the obsessive editor inside me saying this, but believe I have a closer relationship with words than most other people do. And I have strong opinions about words. There are words I really like, and there are words I dislike immensely. The words discussed below are three of the many examples that fall into the latter category.

Utilize: “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White sums it up nicely by saying “Prefer use.”  I say, why use a long, ugly-looking word when a shorter, more attractive one will do?

Via: The word means “by way of” in a geographical sense, as in “I flew to Paris via London.” I don’t have a problem with that usage, but I wince when I see it used incorrectly, as in, “The severest type of attack would entail simultaneous, accurate, dispersed delivery, via missiles or bombers, of nuclear weapons.” (From “The Careful Writer” by Theodore M. Bernstein) And to be honest, I don’t think it’s an attractive word, and it wouldn’t bother me a bit if we all just all used “by way of” instead.

Hopefully:  According to “The Elements of Style,” this adverb that means “with hope” and is also used widely — and incorrectly — to mean “I hope” or “It is to be hoped,” as in “Hopefully, I”ll leave on the noon plane.” Does that sentence mean that you will leave on the noon plane in a hopeful frame of mind or that you hope you will leave on the noon plane? Whichever you mean, you haven’t said it clearly. I just don’t like this word. I had sign in my office that summed up that point of view. It read “Abandon hopefully all ye who enter here.” (My apologies to Dante Alighieri.)

What word do you dislike immensely? Send me a comment about a word you dislike and why you don’t like it, and I will include it in a future post.


2 Responses to “‘Abandon hopefully all ye who enter here’”

  1. Dale Short Says:

    Love it! My pet peeve is “over/under.”

    My editor Clark Stallworth at The Birmingham News imprinted on my brain this advice: “‘Over’ and ‘under’ refer to the relative positions of objects in physical space. ‘More than’ and ‘less/fewer than’ refer to quantities or amounts.”

    I cringe when I hear “under 100 people showed up” or “Over $5,000 was raised.” Which is often.


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