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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Some Pet Peeves of Editorial Style -- In Alphabetical Order

Every so often, I'll be cutting and pasting items from my online reference, Garbl's Editorial Style Manual, that crop up in work I'm editing ... and bug me. 

So, starting with the A's:

abbreviations and acronyms Stop! Before reading the rest of this item, ask yourself: "Do I want to abbreviate or shorten a word or phrase to aid me as the writer and typist, or do I want to aid the reader?" If your answer is "the reader," you're on the right track. Must you abbreviate continued, additional, average or attorney?

Use abbreviations and acronyms only when they will help your readers by making written text simpler and less cumbersome. If you're trying to save yourself time and energy as the writer or typist, your priorities are a mess. Do not use an abbreviation or acronym that would confuse your readers, that they would not recognize quickly. When in doubt, spell it out.

Do not provide an abbreviation or acronym after spelling out a term if the shortened version isn't used elsewhere in the document.

adjacent to Pompous. Simplify. Replace with next to, besidebynear or close to.

alleged Often misused. Don't use this adjective to describe something that is true or already verified. For example, if the police have verified that a burglary happened, it's simply a burglary; it's not an alleged burglary, even if they don't have a suspect in the crime. And when they arrest someone for the crime, he is a suspect; he's not an alleged suspect. Drop alleged. The person accused of the burglary, however, is an alleged burglar. And if he's convicted of the crime, he's no longer the alleged burglar; he is the burglar in that crime.

allow, enable, permit Enable means "to help, make possible, practical or easy": The new trucks will enable the company to provide better service. Allowand permit suggest power or authority to give or deny. Permit suggests formal sanction, approval, consent or authorization. Allow, in contrast, suggests merely the absence of opposition or refraining from banning actions: The city permitted the TV station to broadcast from the park. Our supervisor allows us to dress casually on Fridays.

Also, think about using simpler help for enable and let for allowThe new trucks will help the company provide better service. Our supervisor lets us dress casually on Fridays

alternate, alternative Often misused or confused. As a verb, alternate means to occur in turns--first one, then the other--or every other one in a series:Day alternates with night. As an adjective, it means arranged by turns: The chefs worked on alternate weekends. As a noun, it means a substitute: He's my alternate to the convention. As a noun and adjective, alternative means a choice between two things or among several things: They preferred an alternative landscape plan for the park. The alternatives are native Northwest plants and (not or) imported plants. Think about using simpler choice as a noun and different or other as an adjective.

amenity Usually plural as amenities, it's vague and overused. Simplify. Think about using conveniences or features instead, or be more specific: The new park features a wading pool and climbing toys.

America, American Though often used as a description for residents of the United States, American also may be applied to any resident or citizen of nations in the Caribbean and North, Central and South America. And America may be applied to any of those geographic areas. When possible, use a more precise term: United States or U.S. instead of AmericaU.S. citizen or U.S. resident instead of Americanhistory of the United States or U.S. historyinstead of American history. Because they are used only in the United States, terms such African American, Asian American and Mexican American may be used.

and, but Some teachers wisely taught us not to begin every sentence or fragment of a sentence with and (or but). And others taught us mistakenly not to begin any sentence with those conjunctions. Whatever the lesson, the result has been a common misunderstanding that it's incorrect to begin sentences with conjunctions. Ignore that myth!

And and but are simple, clear and correct transition words between related (and) and contrasting (but) sentences. Go ahead and use 'em--And instead ofAdditionally, Furthermore, In addition or Moreover, and But instead of However. But don't overdo it. They'll lose their punch. A comma is unnecessary following And and But at the beginning of a sentence.

approximately Overstated. Replace approximately with simpler about, nearly, roughly or almostAbout approximately is redundant. Drop approximately.

assist, assistance Overstated and formal. Try simpler help unless someone has special skills to assist someone else.

at this juncture Formal. Use only when writing about a significant or critical activity or time. Critical junction is redundant. Pompous and comical if misused. Try using simpler now instead.

awesome Cliche. Depending on your point, try good, inspiring, wonderful, impressive, serious or difficult. And better yet: Give details about why you think something is "awesome."

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