Contra “Rule Seventeen: Omit Needless Words!”

Brevity is a great virtue [. . .] yet it may be overestimated. The reader’s mind must be permitted to eddy around the subject. . . . [Yes, brevity is a virtue,] but we must not make a fetish of it. . . . Must one never say great big dog because great equals big? Nay, it is a mark of man’s overflowing vitality and sheer joy in emphasis to say great big dog.

— Edwin Herbert Lewis

[Courtesy of The Boston Globe]

Words and Expressions Commonly Misused :: Strunk and White

Many of the words and expressions listed here are not so much bad English as bad style, the commonplaces of careless writing. . . . [T]he 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.

The shape of our language is not rigid; in questions of usage we have no lawgiver whose word is final.

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Alude. Do not confuse with elude. You allude to a book; you elude a pursuer. Note, too, that allude is not synonymous with refer. An allusion is an indirect mention, a reference is a specific one.

Care less. The dismissive “I couldn’t care less” is often used with the shortened “not” mistakenly (and mysteriously) omitted: “I could care less.” The error destroys the meaning of the sentence and is careless indeed. Continue reading