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Monday, October 8, 2012

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

Here's the 11th in my alphabetical series of pet peeves--from entries in the M 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:

A peeves B peeves C peeves D peeves E peeves F peeves G peeves H peeves | I peeves | J peeves | K & L peeves |

magnitude Overstated. Simplify. Try size, importance, influence or greatness instead. Also, try substituting simpler most important or greatest importance for of the first magnitude.


major breakthrough Redundant, wordy cliche. A breakthrough is an important new discovery. By definition, it's already major. Simplify. Drop major.

majority, most Often confused. Use majority to describe "more than half a total or amount" and "the group, party or faction with more than half the votes": A majority vote of only 51 percent is no mandate to make changes that affect everyone. Use simpler most to mean "greatest in amount, quantity, number, extent or degree." Also, use simpler most instead of almost all. And simpler most may replace these wordy phrases: vast majority, the great majority, a significant majority and the overwhelming majority. Or be more specific about the details.

Use majority for describing the larger of two clearly divisible things: A majority of the councilmembers voted for the resolution. Or be specific: Fifty-two percent of the councilmembers were for the resolution. When majority is used alone, it takes singular verbs and pronouns: The majority has made its decision. If a plural word follows an of construction, the sense of the sentence will determine use of either a singular or plural verb: A majority of three votes is not enough to control the committee. The majority of the houses on the block were destroyed.

mandatory Beware of redundancy when using this word, as in Washington law requires mandatory use of seat belts. Instead, Washington law requires use of seat belts, or Use of seat belts is mandatory in Washington

man-made Outdated term. Use artificial, handmade, synthetic or manufactured instead. 

man, manned, manning Do not use man as a verb. Use staff instead or forms of use, operate, worked or run. Change: Three employees man the office. To: Three employees staff the office. Three employees run the office.

manpower Outdated word. Use workers, labor, staff, staffing, physical strength, human effort or work force instead.

many, much Use many with numbers, things that can be counted, and things that comprise several separate entities: many buildings, many cars, many dollars. Use much with mass or abstract nouns and nouns that refer to amounts or quantities instead of numbers: much salt, much courage, much help

maximize It means "to increase to the maximum, to enlarge as much as possible." But if you mean only increase, raise, enlarge, enhance or intensify, simplify and use one of those words instead.

may, might Both words suggest possibility. One meaning of may suggests a likelihood that something will happen. It may rain. Might suggests a remote possibility or a possibility that once existed but no longer does: I might as well be the man in the moon. I might have married her if our circumstances had been different. Consider using might if using may could imply permission instead of possibility: The graduating seniors might skip classes on Friday

may perhaps, might perhaps Redundant and wordy phrases. Drop perhaps. And drop possibly from may possibly and might possibly.

meaningful Vague and overused, as in meaningful action, meaningful discussion, meaningful dialogue, meaningful experience and meaningful relationship. Delete or try serious, useful, important or easy to understand instead. Or add meaning by describing what you mean by meaningful.

media Media takes plural verbs and pronouns when it refers to more than one medium of communication, such as TV, radio and newspapers: Radio and television are popular entertainment media. The Internet is now a major news medium. But it's becoming acceptable to refer to the mass media or communications media or news media as a singular entity that takes singular verbs and pronouns: He's convinced the local news media is out to get him.

midnight, noon Don't capitalize, and do not put a redundant 12 in front of either word. Use midnight and noon instead of misleading, confusing and inaccurate 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. Although equipment like clock radios may need to be programmed using 12 a.m. for midnight and 12 p.m. for noon, readers likely won't know the difference between 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. in other uses.

Also, midnight is part of the day that is ending, not the one that is beginning. A 24-hour day begins immediately after midnight and runs until midnight. When writing about the beginning and end of a day, say it runs from midnight Thursday to Friday at midnight or from midnight Jan. 28 to Jan. 29 at midnight. An alternative is to write that an event begins after midnight, Jan. 28, and that something is due or ends by midnight, Jan. 29, or before midnight, Jan. 29

minimal, minimum These adjectives have subtle differences in meaning. Minimal means "extremely small in number, amount or degree ... and not worth worrying about": with minimal support, minimal objectives, minimal amount of painMinimum means "the smallest number, amount or degree that is possible, necessary, acceptable or lawful to have": Of any one in his family, he had minimum contact with his father. Minimum wage. Minimum payment.

minuscule Often misspelled. Not miniscule. Memory tip: Think minus. Also consider replacing with simpler tiny.

monies, moneys Don't use this jargon for the plural of money. Replace it with simpler cash, funds or even money. But if you must sound like a bureaucrat, use the preferred spelling moneys, not the illogical spelling monies.

more, most Most one-syllable adjectives and adverbs add the suffixes -er or -est to show comparison with other items--as in strict, stricter and strictest. And most adjectives and adverbs with two or more syllables are preceded by more (or less) and most (or least), like logical, more logical and most logical, and difficultless difficult and least difficult. Using both the suffix and more (less) or most (least) to form the comparison is redundant. When comparing only two items, use the comparative -er or more(less). When comparing three or more items, use the superlative -est or most (least). Be aware of irregular forms (like badworse and worst), and check your dictionary when in doubt.

mouse If you have more than mouse looking for cheese in your house, you have mice. If you have more than one mouse for your computer, you have either mice or mouses. But mice is apparently the most common usage.  

myself Often misused. Use this word to refer to yourself or for emphasis: I dressed myself. I'd rather do it myself. But don't use it self-consciously as a substitute for me. Incorrect: He asked Tina and myself for a ride home. Give it to him or myself. He talked to Tina and myself. The horse carried Tina and myself. Correct: He asked Tina and me for a ride home. Give it to him or me. He talked to Tina and me. The horse carried Tina and me.

To test for correctness: Remove the other person's name and the conjunction from the sentence, leaving myself; if it sounds incorrect, it probably is. For example, you wouldn't want to be heard saying, "He asked myself for a ride home. Give it to myself. He talked to myself. The horse carried myself." 


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