More pretentiousisms

rogersgeorge on February 10th, 2012

Here are three more opportunities to make your writing transparent and readable. The rule here is when you have a choice, use the shorter word. Even if you have all sorts of intellect and can handle big words.

Utilize is pretentious; use is plain. Why force your readers to slog through three syllables when one will do? Someone suggested that “utilize” means to use something for an unintended purpose, such as using a wrench for a hammer. Even then, “utilize” is unnecessary. He utilized a wrench as a hammer. He used a wrench as a hammer. Same difference. Go with “use.”

Do you know the name for this kind of hammer?

Upon is so old fashioned. On does the job nicely. Don’t use “upon” unless you’re deliberately trying to suggest age (for example, “Once upon a time…”). If your goal is to convey the facts, “on” is better. Less distracting. He hit upon an idea, or he hit on a better way. He climbed up upon the chair. Give me a break. He climbed up on the chair. “He climbed onto the chair” is also good.

Using an adverb as an adjective is pretentious. The -ly ending changes many words into adverbs, but don’t do it unless you need an adverb. I got this one from a large corporate newsletter. What better place to find pretentiousness?

Even more importantly, we remain committed to providing a superior customer experience with a focus on delivering what our customers value most.

Oops. I revealed the company responsible for the newsletter.

“Importantly” means in an important manner. But their commitment is actually important (presumably), not merely done in an important manner. So that sentence should start with “Even more important, we remain committed…”

Your goal  is to transfer your ideas to your readers. Don’t distract them with pretentiousisms.

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2 Responses to “More pretentiousisms”

  1. Wow. Who’d have thought? I will have to check my thees and thous. Sometimes I like using them even if it shows my age. Now I’ll be leary. Thanks.

  2. Leery! It’s leery! Leary was the college professor (Harvard?) who first advocated experimenting with LSD. But thanks for the comment!


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