FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Persnickety Publishing Pet-Peeves

For better or for worse, warranted or unwarranted, when I encounter certain terms, phrases, and misappropriations in an article, the irrational, impatient side of me wants to discard the piece altogether. Granted, I try to use my better judgment and gauge what I read on its analytic integrity and substance rather than on its style, so I try to push on despite my fastidious aggravation. Lord knows I make plenty of errors in my own writing. Nevertheless, here are a few examples of what irks me the most:

Ubiquitous and Overused Words

Surreal

As long as people continually use the term surreal for every action and event, the term will be rendered meaningless.

Wheelhouse

No. Just No. Only narcissists need this word in their vocabulary.

Pivot

A pivot used to be something I did when I was a dancer and gymnast as a child. It is not something that everyone everywhere is doing now. Here are some alternatives for what you really mean:

Switch

Shift

Change

Deviate

Alter

Amend

Also, why on earth do writers and reporters feel the need to use the exact same language as every other writer and reporter? Is it showing that you possess the insider lexicon or is it just the juvenile high school need to feel like one belongs? Whatever the case, it is annoying – and it lends itself to satire when the Daily Show or Last Week Tonight put together a video reel of every broadcast reporter and their mother repeating the same exact term or phrase. Really, do you want to be one of those guys?

Mistaken and Wrong Usage

Try and …

As in, “Next week, I will try and write a more substantive article than this one.” “Try and…” might be okay when spoken. We all speak in colloquialisms that we would not put on paper, but the written word is different. Neither formal nor informal writing allows for the grammatical use of “try and …” as a substitute for “try to…”

Nonplussed

Contrary to popular opinion, nonplussed does not mean “unfazed” or “unaffected.” Yes, nonplussed really does sound like it should mean something like nonchalant – but it doesn’t. Our esteemed and “brilliant” president even used the word incorrectly when describing his daughter’s reaction to his presidency. Regardless of what Obama may think, nonplussed actually means perplexed, bewildered, or fazed.

Toxin (n)

This one is near and dear to me, as the focus and interest of my scholarship lies in this realm. Somehow, probably because of the new-agey, faddish wellness movement in which people of extravagant wealth pay excessive amounts for “cleanses” as they strive to clear their bodies of “toxins,” toxin has come to mean a synthetic chemical or man-made pollutant.

Famous, successful writers, scientists, physicians, and even Ivy-League educated folk (I know, can you imagine?) use this term incorrectly. In doing so, it likens one to those who believe that rocks and crystals and expensive potions can instantaneously cure one of all ills.

Technically, a toxin is poisonous substance derived from an organism. Last month, I had a spider bite that produced a large, red, scaly, itchy rash on my back. It has only now finally receded. The venom from that spider was a toxin. The harmful synthetic substances, about which many people are rightfully concerned, are known as toxics or toxicants or pollutants or contaminants – not toxins.

The Intercept recently published a piece about Teflon, labeling it a “toxin.” When I received a link to the article from a listserv to which I belong, the moderator soft-corrected the article title and instead called it “The Teflon Toxic …” A man (or woman) after my own heart!

 

Reports, articles, analyses, and essays by radical, unconventional, iconoclastic, and moral voices are marginalized enough by the purveyors of conventional wisdom, It might do us all some good to pay careful attention to grammatical errors, misapplications, and overused terms that the corporate, capitalistic, elite class could use to dismiss writings that run counter to their precious status quo. We don’t need to provide them any more ammunition to discount important voices.

More articles by:

Kristine Mattis holds a Ph.D. in Environment and Resources. She is no relation to the Mad Dog General.  Email: k_mattis@outlook.com Twitter: @kristinemattis

September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail