My reaction is so strong to it I even felt my stomach turn as I typed it for the headline. The times I have used it myself in writing are few and very, very, very, far between. (See, can’t even bring myself to spell ‘it’ out now so henceforth in this post, the offending phrase shall be known as ‘it’.) In fact, I can’t recall using ‘it’ specifically; not even when attempting to convey sarcasm.
We see ‘it’ everywhere – it’s littered all over social media posts and I am somewhat startled to see the increasing prevalence of it in business emails. Did you actually laugh out loud? Or was it more of a snort, a chuckle, a titter, an open-mouthed belly laugh? Or did you type it with a deadpan look on your face because actually, it didn’t go anywhere near your funny bone but you thought adding it would pacify the reader?
I wonder, how difficult is it to think of an alternative that would be more meaningful?
‘It’ joins a long and thriving list of clichés, buzzwords, and jargon. They are found in the writing of some people who appear to care not a jot about finding a way to express an idea that is authentic. Instead, it seems some writers would rather take the easy way out; even the lazy way out, by relying on these trite, short-hand phrases. I’m pretty sure these writers secretly keep a tombola filled with raffle tickets containing hackneyed sayings and when they can’t spend an extra few minutes to ponder a meaningful way to express their thoughts, they put a hand into the box; swirl it around a few times and pull one out. And plop it goes, into the writing. They then sit back and think, ‘wow, that’s great’, hit ‘send’, and have lost interest before the swoosh sound of the email has subsided in their ears.
I must admit I feel somewhat cheated when I find it in otherwise great writing which has potential to enthrall. The use of the well-worn phrase lets any original thought leech out. And I think my hope for fabulous writing dies a tiny death, each and every time I read THAT dreaded acronym.
It’s true that business writing does not often have an objective to titillate and enthrall – the point most of the time is to be clear; specific, logical, present a good case or perspective, and leave the reader with no doubt about what’s expected of them. But the writing still needs to hold the reader’s attention. If the reader has to work out what the point is or go to a thesaurus to figure out the meaning of a particular word, then the writer has failed.
‘Oh I know there’s a point to this lengthy email and I have the next 20 minutes to figure out what the writer meant’ said no reader, ever!
The use of clichéd phrases, jargon, and big words people would not utter out loud plus add to that all manner of other grammatical faux pas can detract from the best message. The reader is left feeling frustrated; bewildered, and slightly miffed about spending any time with the writing at all.
So then, to my own list of the top 10 jaw-clenching clichés and clangers that distract me, in no particular order. Except the first three which are:
- LOL (dammit I had to type it again)
- The incorrect use of ‘myself’. E.g.: ‘Please send the details to Bill or myself’. Myself is used when the subject is the receiver of the action: “I dress myself” “I scare myself” “I would like to introduce myself” so it’s: ‘please send the details to Bill or me.’
- It’s/its. This one I see everywhere; there’s still so many people who think ‘its’ as a possessive needs an apostrophe after the S. The apostrophe is only used in an abbreviation of “it is”.
- I could ‘of’ been there. Gulp. I know ‘have’ can sound like ‘of’ when you say it but, so very wrong in writing.
- Can you get it to me at “your earliest convenience”? “My earliest convenience is the year 3000” would be my inner sarcastic response.
- ‘Pursuant’ to our conversation last week. When was the last time you heard anyone say ‘pursuant’ out loud?
Then there are all the misused words that are becoming so prevalent in North America that they are slowly becoming part of the accepted lexicon. But that doesn’t mean I have to like or use them!
- Cutting prices will ‘impact’ our bottom line. People use ‘impact’ as a verb when it’s actually a noun. ‘Affect’ would be a better choice here.
- ‘Anyways’. This is not a word. The word is ‘anyway’ – there is no plural.
- I’ll be there ‘momentarily’. Momentarily means “for a moment” not ‘in a moment”. Therefore, one might say, “I hesitated momentarily” but “I’ll be there in a moment”.
- Using ‘that’ instead of ‘who’. For example: “I would like to thank everyone that sent me a card’. Because you’re talking about people, it’s who, not that.
So what are your pet language/grammar peeves?