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Monday, August 13, 2012

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

Here's the seventh in my alphabetical series of pet peeves -- from entries in the G 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: 

Garbl Acronym for Gary B. Larson, webmaster for this online style manual and Garbl's Writing Center. He means "to untangle and clarify misunderstood or incomprehensible rules and guidelines of grammar, style and usage." Avoid garbling with the unrelated creator of the excellent "The Far Side" cartoons.

gay, lesbian Identify a person's sexual orientation only when it is relevant. Do not refer to "sexual preference" or to a gay, homosexual or alternative "lifestyle." Use gay (n. and adj.) to describe men and women attracted to the same sex, though lesbian is the more common term for women. Avoid using homosexual except in clinical contexts or references to sexual activity.

Instead of referring to lesbians and gays, consider using gay women and men or lesbians and gay men. Lowercase gay and lesbian except in names of organizations. Don't refer to gays with disparaging, offensive terms. Use gay and queer carefully in other contexts. Do not use gay as offensive, incorrect adolescent slang meaning "stupid."

gender Gender has become an acceptable term for writing about differences between males and females, especially their social, psychological and cultural traits--or who we are. Sex is more often used when writing about physical and biological traits--or what we do. Stay tuned.

get Get is good English. It's an acceptable, simpler substitute for formal words like obtain, receive, become and procure. And so are its verb forms: got and gottenHe got a digital camera for his birthday. I have gotten really tired of pulling morning glory.

gift To give one is a wonderful thing to do. Just don't gift it. If you must, you can present a gift, donate it or contribute it. But giving it is simpler, less formal and just as nice.

gobbledygook Complicated, highfalutin, obscure, pompous and wordy language and jargon that's especially useful in official letters and technical documents you don't want your reader to understand.

goes without saying, needless to say Well, what more can I say? Omit needless words and information. Either phrase may be useful to stress a common bond with your audience, but think about clearer, stronger ways to do that. If you still want to make say something, simplify. Consider using clearly, naturally, obviously, of course or plainly--but avoid insulting your reader by stating the obvious in condescending ways. And accept that your reader may ignore or question your words.

good, well As a modifier, good is always an adjective for writing about the quality of someone or something, which means it describes nouns and pronouns (or people, places and things): good English, good guitarist, a good many. As a modifier, well is usually an adverb for writing about the way something is done, which means it describes verbs, adjectives and other adverbs: to play well, well-paid employee.

Well also can be an adjective but usually when describing someone's health, as in "not sick": She is well. When asked the unavoidable question "How are you?" a reply like "I am well" refers to your health. But replies using "good" or "fine" or a similar adjective (or "bad" or "terrible" or a similar adjective) refer to your situation, thoughts, feelings and so on. And if the question is "How are you doing?" a reply like "I'm doing well" refers to your actions.

graduate, graduated Commonly misused. People graduate from high school or college, they don't graduate high school or college. Remember that they received their diploma from some place; they graduated from that place.

ground zero Often misused. Use it to identify the site of a devastating nuclear bomb blast or the location of the tragic World Trade Center attack in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. Don't use it to describe the beginning of something. Instead, use phrases like the beginning, starting point or start from scratch.

grow Unless you're writing about growing crops or a beard, use less trendy expand, develop, build or increaseexpand your business, not grow your business.

guardedly optimistic Wordy cliche. If you can't simply write that you're optimistic, don't bother writing anything. Delete guardedly or replace the phrase with confident, encouraged or hopeful.

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