Category Archives: Usage

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, borrow lend me your ears”


Borrow Lend me your attention and let me share this gaffe on a newspaper website that my friend Fred pointed out: The day before, his sister Dolly Wambach, of Georgetown, Minn., and family spent about 12 hours loading the tops … Continue reading

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No such thing as “very imperative”


Can something be “very imperative?” No, it can’t. I’ve already written about the overuse of intensifiers, our habit of tacking adverbs like very, really, and extremely onto words in an attempt to turn up the intensity of our language. While … Continue reading

Posted in Grammar, Usage, Word Choice | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Ask an editor: Is “Beg the question” a lost cause?


Bill Van Benschoten asks: “Recent reports of wrongdoing in the federal government beg the question of how closely citizens  should monitor their elected and unelected leaders.” Correct? Acceptable? Or should we still hold the ground on the earlier sense of … Continue reading

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Don’t fear contractions


Are you still fearful of using contractions? Don’t be. They have a long and storied history. For more, see my article “Contractions and how not to abuse ‘em.” (Hat tip to Ray Ward.)

Posted in Everyday writing, Grammar, Plain Language, Usage | Tagged | 1 Comment

Scholar Champions Clearer Legal Writing


Legalese is ubiquitous. It’s the fine print on the back of credit card statements, the license agreements for software, the warranties (and warnings and disclaimers) for new products. It often requires a magnifying glass and is considered to be convoluted, impenetrable, jargon-laden writing that is reviled by hapless readers.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Joseph Kimble, a Thomas Cooley Law School professor and editor-in-chief of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, as well as the author of Lifting the Fog of Legalese: Essays on Plain Language (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2006). Kimble spoke to the Eye about his advocacy of plain language writing.

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Posted in Articles, Business writing, Law, Plain Language, Usage | 2 Comments

Hopefully, Wistful No More


As an introductory sentence modifier, hopefully is accepted by some as perfectly legitimate and vilified by others, such as Edward Johnson in the Handbook of Good English, as “sloppy vagueness.” I am talking about the use of hopefully to mean “it is to be hoped that,” as in this sentence: “Hopefully, you aren’t gnashing your teeth because of this sentence.”
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Posted in Articles, Grammar, Usage | 3 Comments