rogersgeorge on February 26th, 2012

Many times you have a choice of what words or phrases to use when you write. Both (or more) of your choices are grammatical—more than one choice would be grammatically correct—but one choice is better than the others. I have noticed a few items that professionals consistently get right, and amateurs frequently get wrong.

That said is better than that being said. Why? Because whatever thing you’re referring to is over with, so the simple past is correct. Literally, the second choice tells you that it’s still being said, which is not true. Here’s an example from that book about anthrozoology I mentioned in the last post:

As a result, Koreans are increasingly ambivalent about eating dogs, and a recent poll found that 55% of adults disapproved of eating canine flesh. That said, the same survey reported that fewer than 25% of South Koreans favor a ban on dogmeat.

That first sentence is clearly in the past, and over with. So “that said” is better.

More than is better than over. When you compare numbers, strictly speaking, you are comparing more with fewer, not higher with lower. This metaphor can be ironic when the numbers go down. For example, if you’re in a submarine at over 600 feet, are you at 599 or 601?

After or when are better than once. This item appears when you have two or more events that happen one after the other. Think about it. What does “once” mean? One time.

After the griddle is hot enough, pour on the batter. When you get your shoes on, you may go outside. Once is enough, young man!

Speaking of putting things in order, don’t say “on top of each other.” This is literally impossible. It’s one on top of another.

one on top of another

Don’t use virtually for almost. “Virtually” is a perfectly good word, but it means “not real;” it doesn’t mean “almost.”

Almost everyone in the room was a grammar nazi.  The mime was trapped inside a virtual wall.

There’s a fine pair of sentences, even if the first one describes an unlikely circumstance.

A final example of professionalism: Professionals don’t overuse “as well as.” Most of the time they use plain old “and.” “As well as” implies some kind of separation between the two items. “And” joins them.

A good friend of mine, Jack Riepe, writes a very funny blog called Twisted Roads. However, he is an outstanding public relations writer as well as a humorist.

The separation implied here is that you might not expect both skills to reside in the same person. However, in a bio on the back cover of a book you might find a sentence like this:

Jack Riepe is a public relations writer and humorist who lives in Cape May, NJ.

Here the two go together like chocolate and ice cream. Take a look at the blog; it is pretty funny.

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4 Responses to “Professionalisms”

  1. Dear Rogers:

    You would be surprised at how often I read this blog, and try to incorporate its examples. Still I make millions of common mistakes, especially if I am in a hurry. My dilemma is compounded by the fact that I never learned how to type either.

    I have been constantly frustrated in my attempts to leave a comment on this blog by the CAPTCHA CODE, which will reject my renditions time after time. I now stop at four attempts.

    It was very kind of you to mention me in your blog… Usually, I am more of a target.

    Fondest regards,

  2. I am honored that you read The Writing Rag, and particularly that you follow its advice! The only thing I see wrong in your writing (besides the profanity, of course) is that it needs better proofreading. Consider hiring one of those cute waitresses to look over your stuff and mark it up.

  3. I feel your pain, Jack, with the captcha code as well with making mistakes. I think it’s an age thing. My first job out of high school was proofreading. I proof now and I still end up with a typo somewhere.
    My question for you, Reg, is where do we draw the line between what is grammatically correct and what has become a matter of speech. It’s like the word irregardless. Everyone uses it without thinking. Unless someone points these mistakes out, we just become accustomed to them and accept them. Irregardless, er, ahem, regardless of their impropriety.

  4. The frequency of how often you hear “irregardless” depends on the circles you swing in. I never hear it–even the programmers I work with don’t say it. I suspect you live in an area where most people’s livelihoods don’t depend on the precision of their speech. When you say it correctly often enough, it comes naturally, just as when you learned not to say “He don’t.”
    One of these days I’m going to submit a post on “What are you really saying?” and caution people against using words and phrases that don’t mean what they intend.


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