The rule is that when you compare two things, you use the comparative form (see the Andertoons comic below), and when you select from three or more, it’s called the superlative form.
The kid in the comic has a point. When the word you want has three or more syllables, use more and most with the word.
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I illustrate with two jokes, but here’s the lesson: Be sure your readers know where you’re coming from. I remember a quip used in religious circles: A text out of context is a pretext. But that’s not one of the two jokes.
Joe: A WAVE is a person in the Women’s auxiliary of the navy, right?
Moe: Um, yes, the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, back in WWII, yes.
Joe: And a WAC is in the Women’s Army Corps, right?
Joe: Then what’s a WOC???
Moe: Hmm. I give up.
Joe: A WOC is what you thwow at a wabbit!
You remember that one from Bugs Bunny, right? Here’s the other one. (It works better if you say it rather than read it. Try it on some all-knowing teenager.):
Joe: How do you pronounce M, A, C, D, O, N, A, L, D?
Moe: MacDonald, the guy who had a farm.
Joe: How about M, C, H, E, N, R, Y?
Moe: Well, McHenry, like the historic fort in Baltimore.
Joe: Then how do you pronounce M, A, C,-, H, I, N, E?
Moe: Hmm. Mack Hiney? Mac Hein?
Joe: Nope! Machine!
I’d tell a third joke, but I might be endangering Joe’s life. Anyway, you can see how setting up a misleading context directed the victim’s thinking down the wrong trail. Here’s a longer version of the advice at the top of this post:
When you proofread your material, think of ways it might be misunderstood, and prevent it.
Of course sometimes it is the reader’s fault:
…Be sure to get this right: The hill is Cal-vary, not Cav-alry! It’s easy to get these mixed up, just like the other examples in this Fox Trot comic:
With that title to this post, and this Baby Blues comic, I hardly need to say more…
…but I will: If you write instructions, always test them.