Good Habits to Break
by Fred Kniggendorf, Ph.D.
Any time you get a bunch of English geeks together you’ll find among them “gatekeepers,” or people who argue for the purity of our beautiful, but difficult, language. I’m not a gatekeeper.
However, I do take issue with the way we all sometimes use words incorrectly. It’s easy to get into bad habits, but it’s not impossible to break them. We must try. We must believe. Check it out:
Stop using nouns as verbs.
This will impact us. vs. This will have an impact on us. OR This will affect us.
He referenced our conversation. vs. He made a reference to our conversation. OR He referred to our conversation.
Can you loan me a dollar? vs. Can you give me a one dollar loan? OR Can you lend me a dollar?
Stop using verbs as nouns.
There was an interesting quote in today’s paper. vs. There was an interesting quotation in today’s paper. Can I quote you on that?
Stop using weird phrases.
It will center around the budget. vs. It will center upon the budget. OR It will revolve around the budget. (NB. If something’s in the center it can’t go around. FYI)
I’ll try and do that for you. vs. I’ll try to do that for you.
I’ll be there in a half an hour. vs. I’ll be there in a half hour. OR I’ll be there in half an hour. (Pick one and commit.)
There are more. For example, aren’t I? is a contraction for are not I? Decimate means to reduce by ten percent, not obliterate. And you don’t want to get me started on snuck.
At this point the astute reader may rightly ask, “Well, if we need to eliminate these, why’d you call them ‘Good Habits to Break’ instead of ‘Bad Habits to Break’?” That’s a great question! Unfortunately, I’m out of room . . .