Every writer has at least one pet hate, and one foible – what is yours?
I have a writer friend who has always had a special hatred for those who qualify an absolute, such as suggesting that something is ‘almost unique’ or ‘almost new’. Naturally, as frequently argues, a thing is either unique, or it is not, but it can never be almost unique; similarly, a thing is either new, or it is not, but there can be no room for middle ground.
Sadly, for my friend, he is losing his battle, with advertisers increasingly qualifying their absolutes, their products branded as totally unique, completely new, almost 100% effective, and so forth.
Although it isn’t my personal pet hatred, I do see his point. On a related note, I find it quite irritating when I see products advertised as ‘new and improved’.
How can anything be both ‘new’ and at the same time, ‘improved’?
Surely if it is new, there has never been anything before it upon which to improve? Conversely, if it is improved, it can no longer be considered new. Ho hum.
My pet hate has always been the distinction between ‘less’ and ‘fewer’. I have never had any trouble distinguishing between these two words, but fewer people today seem to grasp the difference.
But whilst we may wave our pens in the air and holler at those passing our window who have less of a grasp on the language than our good selves, it is easy to ignore that we all have our little foibles, our own personal failings.
For example, my friend struggles valiantly with trying to spell ‘murmur’ correctly. An English teacher for fifty years, yet has a blind spot for that word. As for me? Well, I frequently find myself squinting into the darker corners of my memories of spelling lessons, aware that ‘sentence’ invariably seems to become ‘sentance’ – ugh!
I recently used The Linguisticator, a software tool which analyses your writing and points out your personal foibles, and was horrified to see the sheer number of times I use the word ‘just’. I hadn’t realised it before, but hurriedly set to removing almost all such occurrences.
We all find it easy to notice other people’s faults and foibles, but it is very much harder to spot, or admit, to our own. Why don’t you have a go at using The Linguisticator yourself, and seeing what your particular foible is, or leave a comment, and give vent to your own pet hate!