eschew obsfucation

As an editor, one of the automatic changes I make to any piece of writing is to change unnecessary big words into perfect little ones.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the big ones! Sometimes big fancypants words are just and precisely the only way to say exactly what you mean!

But sometimes they are just gewgaws and fripperies. Extra lace and bows and chintz pillows when a pure and bare Shaker chair is what’s called for.

The big one that seems to be in vogue these days — and sportscasters, I’m looking at you — is utilize. There is just no call for this word whatsoever. It means USE. It means nothing MORE or LESS than USE. Use works great, whereas utilize is the kind of word that gets dressed in a suit every day and says it is going to work but has actually just been going to the park and feeding the birds all day FOR MONTHS. Until everyone noticed. When will everyone notice???

Use use. Do not utilize utilize.

Another favorite of dumb people pretending to be smart is to insert the pronoun “I” into places it doesn’t belong. Like most sharp pointy things, “I” only belongs in certain mutually agreed-upon locations. Not ever when you get all fancy and say “she spoke to my sister and I” or GOD FORBID when you think you should say “between you and I.”

Ever. OK? Just don’t.

Me me me. It’s one of your favorite words anyway, so go ahead and use it in all of those pleasantly precocious little prepositional phrases. Not that you would know what those are, you were too busy writing eye heart ewe and Duran Duran Rules on your acid washed jeans in pink ballpoint pen the year we covered prepositions in class, so just never you mind.

Recently I’ve also noticed an uptic in the use of simplistic when people just mean simple, which is pretty ironic actually. And I know someone who uses whom in any possible circumstance, when it is actually only correct to use this word when speaking to 120-year-old English teachers, to whom you should always say whom because it maketh their little hearts sing for gladness.

And if you’ve never wondered if you are using comprise the wrong way, then you probably are. It’s easy, and there’s a trick to remembering.


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