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Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Word, Please: Grammar 'rule' has got to be kidding

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 gotten: He got a digital camera for his birthday. I have gotten really tired of pulling morning glory.
That's one of my entries in Garbl's Editorial Style and Usage Manual. The use of got and gotten are also discussed in this article by June Casagrande of the Daily Pilot in Costa Mesa, Calif. She and I agree--as do most past and present authorities on English grammar and word usage. 

Casagrande concludes:
Some people don't like the sound, the informality or the inefficiency that "got" can bring. That's a valid position. But when they start telling people it's wrong, you know things have gotten out of hand.
Before writing this blog item, I rechecked various style, usage and spelling references I respect and use. While some encourage writers to make sure another word isn't stronger or more precise in meaning than get and its verb tenses, none insist that get, got and gotten should never be used. (Note, however, that longtime approval is in the United States. The verb tenses in British English are get, got and got.)

My references also note that get and its offspring are clear, concise and effective synonyms for unnecessarily formal words. Here are several related entries from my online manual:
access Often misspelled or misused. It takes two c's and two s's. It's also best used as a noun. As a verb, it's technical jargon for getting information, especially on computers. For other uses, try connect, enter, find, get, use, look up or reach.
acquire Overstated. Simplify. Try a form of get, buy or win.
obtain Overstated and formal. Simplify. See get.
procure See get.
receive Formal, and commonly misspelled. Remember the "i before e except after c" rule. Also, consider replacing with forms of simpler get. See get.
secure (v.) Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try get or set.
And here are related entries that give shorter, simpler alternatives to Long Words in Garbl's Concise Writing Guide:
Instead of ... Change to or try ...
access (as a verb) ... get, reach
acquire ... get, buy, win, gain, earn, pick up
attain ... reach, succeed, meet, gain, get, win, arrive at, grasp
obtain ... get, earn, gain, buy, exist, hold, stand
procure ... get, buy, gain, win, find
receive ... accept, get
secure ... get.
Casagrande's article is featured in the March 24 issue of my daily online paper,
Garbl's Style: Write Choices, available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

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