Adverbs are having their celebrity moment. The problem is that they are usually time and space wasters. How many times have you seen (or written) sentences containing the following?
Instead, use a verb that carries precise meaning; then you’ll have no need to add a superfluous adverb. If a television is blaring, no need to say that it’s blaring loudly. When someone shouts, it won’t be done quietly.
A friend’s young granddaughter was fond of starting most sentences with “actually.” When her grandma asked her what “actually” meant, Nicole gave it serious thought and finally answered, “Actually, I don’t know.”
Euphemisms are generally used to change something icky into something more palatable. As George Carlin said, “Sometime in my life—no one asked me about this—toilet paper became bathroom tissue. The dump became the landfill. And partly cloudy became partly sunny.”
I was in a medical center the other day, where an information station was set up under an umbrella. Emblazoned on the umbrella were the words SERVICE AMBASSADOR. I find nothing distasteful about the word INFORMATION, but I am entertained by the thought of a group meeting to find a supposedly better (and definitely more pompous) description of the services offered under that umbrella. SERVICE AMBASSADOR: Do you suppose the, ahem, ambassadors who staff that desk need congressional confirmation?
Keep it simple. Not everything needs to be prettied up. In most cases, your readers aren’t fooled.
© Judi Birnberg
I’ve taken the following list from Maxwell Nurnberg’s Questions You Always Wanted to Ask About English*
* but were afraid to raise your hand.
It’s good to be concise when we write; see if you can spot the redundancies in these sentences:
- If all of us cooperate together, we’ll get somewhere.
- It was the general consensus of opinion that war was inevitable.
- He shook his fist as he rose up to speak.
- He was guilty of a false misstatement.
- He told ties, socks, shirts, and etc.
- He must now realize the fact that we are no longer able to help him.
- In my opinion, I think the situation has grown worse.
- He carefully examined each and every entry.
- He was miraculously restored back to health.
- His score for 18 holes never exceeded more than 75.
(Mr. Nurnberg certainly could have thrown a few examples in using females.—JB)
Punctuating however depends on where it falls in a sentence.
At the beginning or the end, set it off with a comma:
However, American presidential campaigns seem to go on forever.
American presidential campaigns seem to go on forever, however.
If however occurs in the middle of a sentence, use commas around both sides of the word (see cartoon above):
American presidential campaigns, however, seem to go on forever.
If it comes between two complete sentences you have a couple of choices:
Use a period and a capital letter: American presidential campaigns seem to go on forever. However, people are looking for ways to shorten the process.
Use a semicolon: American presidential campaigns seem to go on forever; however, people are looking for ways to shorten the process.
What you can’t do is put commas around both sides of however:
American presidential campaigns seem to go on forever, however, people are looking for ways to shorten the process. <———- This is a no-no.
Watching a news program last night, I heard a well known reporter for Bloomberg say “asterick” not once but twice. No such word exists.
One of those marks is an “asterisk.” More than one are “asterisks.” Neither one end in the “—rick” sound. The final syllable of both words contains “—risk.”
Say or write “asterick” at your own risk.
Here’s a list of words that are widely considered to be the most persuasive you can use. Notice that most are short and all are commonly used. Nothing fancy here: