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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My Pet Peeves: From the F Entries in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual


Here's the sixth in my alphabetical series of pet peeves -- from entries in the F section of Garbl's Editorial Style Manual. My style manual covers editorial issues like abbreviations, addresses, capitalization, English grammar, Internet terminology, numbers, plurals, possessives, punctuation, spelling and word usage. It focuses on U.S. standards for spelling, punctuation, definitions, usage, style and grammar.

Earlier blogs:

facility Unless part of a proper name, avoid this word when possible, especially as a bureaucratic euphemism for building. Be more specific by naming or describing individual facilities, such as base, building, factory, hotel, jail, laboratory, museum, office, plant, restroom, stadium, warehouse or even toiletThe council appointed her director of the new jail [not facility, or worse, jail facility].


fact Use this word only if a statement can be verified as accurate, true or correct, not for matters of judgment. Also, a true fact is redundant; drop true

When possible, avoid using the phrase the fact that. Omit needless words: since or because, notbecause of the fact thateven, though, despite or although, not despite the fact thatplease note, remind you or tell you, not call your attention to the fact thatwe were unaware that (or did not know that) instead of we were unaware of the fact thather success instead of the fact that she had succeeded; and our arrival, not the fact that we had arrived

factor Hackneyed if used to mean a thing to be considered, an event or action. Instead, use influence, cause, reason, part, fact, feature, condition or circumstances. Or be specific and name the specific factor that contributed to a particular result.

fairly Vague adverb meaning "more than a little but much less than very." Huh? Eliminate that word, be more precise, or rethink what you're writing about: Change fairly hot to hot or warm--or be specific: 78 degrees.

FAQ Abbreviation of plural frequently asked questions; it doesn't end with a redundant s. Except in headings, spell it out on first reference; FAQ is fine for later references.

farther, further Often misused or confused. Farther suggests measurable physical distance: The plant was farther away than they thought. Memory aide: The far in farther refers to physical distance.

As an adjective, further means "more" or "additional" in time, degree, amount or quantity: She had further news. But consider using simpler more instead. Further is also used as an adverb meaning "in addition" or "moreover." As a verb, further means to "advance or promote": She worked to further his career. But consider using simpler help.

feel, think Not interchangeable. If ideas are based on feelings or emotions, use feel. But if ideas are based on perception, memory and judgment, use think (or believe). 

fewer, less Fewer (or few) stresses number, and less stresses degree or quantity. Use fewer for plural nouns and individual items that can be counted, less for singular nouns and a bulk, amount, sum, period of time or idea that is measured in other ways: Fewer than 10 applicants called. I had less than $50 in my pocket. Fewer dollars, less money. Less food, fewer calories.

few in number Redundant. Drop in number. Or replace with infrequent, limited, meager, not many, rare, scant, scarce, sparse or uncommon.

(the) field of If someone works in a field of wheat or corn, wonderful! We need family farmers. But if someone works in the field of accounting or journalism, simplify and drop the field of as redundant and unnecessary. The area of is also unnecessary. 

finalize Pompous and often misused. Use only to mean "make final" or "put into final final form." Otherwise, simplify. Replace with finish, end, complete, settle or wrap up, depending on your point. Change: I will finalize the report. To: I will finish the report.

final outcome, final result Wordy. Redundant. Simplify. Drop final.

first began, first started Wordy and redundant. Simplify. Drop first.

flammable, inflammable, inflammatory, nonflammable Sometimes dangerously confused. Flammable and inflammable both mean "combustible or burns very easily." But use less ambiguous flammable when making a safety warning. Use nonflammable to mean "will not burn." Inflammatory means "tending to inflame or excite the senses, or tending to incite anger or disorder."

flier, Flyer Flier is the preferred spelling meaning "a bulletin, handbill, pilot or someone who travels on a plan": Staff members delivered fliers about the public meeting. Flyer is a proper name of some buses and trains.

footnotes, endnotes Often confused, misused and overused. Footnotes go at the foot, or bottom, of pages; endnotes go at the end of chapters, articles and books. But avoid using them, except for bibliographic references or citations. They force readers to look somewhere else on a page or another page for the information they contain. That interrupts reading and can cause reader distraction, confusion and frustration. Instead, try putting the information in parentheses within the text. If you must use them, consider footnotes first.

foreign words and phrases Before using an unfamiliar foreign word or phrase, consider the needs and interests of your readers. If your readers may not understand the words, consider using an English alternative, defining the foreign words or suggesting the meaning of the words within the context of your document.

Don't italicize (or define) foreign words and phrases commonly used in English and listed in English dictionaries: bon voyage, versus. Also, don't italicize foreign language names of cities, buildings, streets, organizations and other proper nouns.

Italicize truly foreign words and phrases the first time they're used in a document. If they're used again in the document, use roman (or regular) type. Truly foreign words and phrases have not become part of the English language; they're not listed in English dictionaries, or they're identified as foreign in English dictionaries. Translations are typically put in quotation marks and set off with parentheses immediately after the foreign words or phrases they translate. 

Complete sentences or long phrases in a foreign language are not usually italicized. If they're direct quotations, place them between quotation marks instead. And again, if using an untranslated foreign-language statement would confuse, annoy, frustrate or insult many of your readers--and make you look foolish, pompous or arrogant--don't use it.

formal Formal writing, formal language and formal words have their place, but it's not usually a place where communication is clear, concise and friendly. Be wary of visiting such a place when you want others to take the time to read, understand and even act on the words you write. If you want to put distance between you and your readers, use formal writing. It'll surely be cold and uninviting for your readers and lonely for you. This style manual suggests simpler alternatives to formal, pompous and pretentious words and phrases. 

for the purpose of Overstated and wordy. Simplify. Delete or replace with for or to.

for the reason that Overstated and wordy. Simplify. Replace with because, since, for or why.

free As an adverb, free means "for nothing." So for free is usually redundant; drop for. Also redundant is free gift; drop one word or the other.

fundamental Overstated. Simplify. Cut or change to basic, important or needed.

future Wordy, if used with the words in the near ... or in the not too distant .... Simplify. Use soon,shortly or even be specific: tomorrow, this Saturday, in a week, next month and so on.

future plans Redundant. Simplify. Drop future

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