A note on usage

In his New York Times op-ed column today on the new biography of Steve Jobs, Joe Nocera refers to “the enormity of Jobs’s accomplishments — from starting the personal computer industry in his garage to creating a half-dozen of the most iconic consumer products ever invented[.]”

Folks, “enormity” is not a synonym for “magnitude.” “Disinterested” is not a synonym for “uninterested.” “Literally” is not properly used as an intensifier. “Unique” is a superlative; it cannot be modified. Sorry, but it’s true.

Omit needless words. Attend to proper usage. Avoid cliches — such as the use of “iconic” in the sentence quoted above. They deaden thought.  Aspire to clarity and precision. Read and reread George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language.”

It is difficult enough as it is to think clearly. We need to struggle — to struggle harder — to avoid debasing the medium of our thought and communication.

NOTE: My wife criticizes me for preaching in this post. I intend it is at least as much as an exhortation to myself as it is to others.


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