11 November 2005

Word abuse

The English language is a powerful and flexible communication tool. It's highly modular and can be bent, twisted and tweaked in numerous ways to convey complex meaning with great precision.

But as we all know, just because you are flexible doesn't mean you will be appreciated for it. In fact, the English language is so flexible that it is rarely respected and often abused. People will invent a new word on a whim, even when a perfectly good word with the same meaning already exists. Words can be arbitrarily truncated or extended and easily enter into common usage.

It's not that your writing needs to be formal; I prefer a conversational tone in writing because it's easier to understand. And I don't mind sentences that start with and, or sentences that end in prepositions, as much as some of the grammar nazis do.

But certain things grate on me like fingernails on a blackboard.

For example, here are some non-words that I hear all the time:
incent: A truncated form of incentive. Use encourage or you will incent a shudder up my spine.
remediate: This may be a word but it's lengthy and there are so many better words that are shorter and clearer: do you need it? You can remedy, repair or perhaps rectify this problem by using "fix" or "solve."
strategize: If you strategize a little more succinctly you might plan, or maybe even think!
messaging: It's your message or your messages -- or it's a mess.
marketspace: Use marketspace if you want to sound like a flake. Otherwise use market.

Are you a word-beater? This phenomenon is so profuse that any list of commonly abused words would be out of date as soon as it was written, and I am sorry to say that it is as common among professional communicators as it is in the world at large.

Especially if you are a professional communicator, educate yourself and be vigilant. And try not to use a long and confusing word when a short one will do.

What words do you hate to see abused? Post your comments.

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Anonymous said...

and then there is "functionality" when function is a great word.

Riaz said...

I like to to use Sparknotes Ultimate Syle ( http://www.sparknotes.com/writing/style/) to help me out.

Unknown said...

Oooh, just thought of another one I really hate: impactful. [shudder]

Anonymous said...

planfull <-- That one is making the rounds in our org.

Unknown said...

Planfull. That one's baffling. What does it mean? How would you use it in a sentence?