My thoughts on writing tips found online and in published works (with some random thoughts thrown into the mix).

Friday, February 10, 2012

Commonly Misused Words and Expressions, #2

Selected tips from Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, with my own commentary:
  • "Care less."
    • Sometimes the phrase is written or spoken as "I could care less." This is indeed incorrect. If you could care less, that means that you care about the subject now. Usually, this is not the case. Normally, the speaker or writer usually means that they do not care at all about the subject at hand, so the phrase should be "I couldn't care less." Simply, because you could not care any less than you already do. Get it?
  • "Data."
    • Though this word is slowly gaining acceptance as a singular noun, it is proper to use it as a plural. Therefore, a plural verb should be used with it. Instead of "The data is wrong," it would be more appropriate to write, "These data are wrong."
  • "Disinterested. Uninterested."
    • If someone is disinterested in a court case, that means that they are impartial (hopefully, the judge could be considered disinterested.) If they are uninterested, it means that they do not care what happens. (If the judge were uninterested, it could lead to a very bad trial.)
  • "Effect. Affect."
    • Effect means "to accomplish" or "a result." For example: The room seemed dreary, an effect of the grey paint. Affect means "to influence." For example: The grey room affected Drew in such a way that he instantly become sad." There is a big difference in usage here.
  • "Etc."
    • This literally means "and other things." If you are writing informally, it is perfectly okay to use it when your audience will be able to name the "other things" it covers. In formal writing, however, it is better not to use it at all. It is more appropriate to list out the things that are so important that an "etc." might be used to represent them. Also, never use "etc." after a phrase such as "for example." This phrase implies that you will be naming specifics, and etc. is too vague to be used in this application.

No comments:

Post a Comment