ADVOCATE vs. ADVOCATE FOR

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., advocating equal rights for all. Hang on tight, everyone. Here’s another language rant. This one’s about a widespread example of English usage in need of improvement: writing advocate for instead of, simply, advocate, where advocate is a verb. I believe the confusion originates in this word’s ability to serve as […]

Which Is it? Visit or Visitation?

As the holidays approach, so do family gatherings. If the relatives are coming to town, the question arises: what should we call the occasion, a visit or a visitation? I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen the word visitation misused for visit. It reminds me of the times I’ve seen simplistic erroneously used for […]

55 Years and Counting

That’s me – the kid with his hand on the pile of books – as a freshman at Asbury Park High School in 1958. Yesterday, I attended the 55th reunion of my Asbury Park (N.J.) High School class of 1962. It prompts me to write this week about my coolest extracurricular involvement there: with our […]

‘Reference’ vs. ‘Refer’

George Orwell, author of 1984 and, among much else, an essay, “Politics and the English language,” which includes six rules of writing (see below) Here’s a use of a word I believe good writers should always avoid: reference when the simple verb refer is what’s really meant. Reference is a perfectly good noun: The professor […]

Consul – Council – Counsel: What’s the Difference?

Russian consulate in San Francisco The latest round of tit-for-tat “undiplomacy” between the U.S. and Russia was in the news this past week. The State Department ordered the closure of three Russian diplomatic offices, including the Russian consulate-general in San Francisco. This reminded me of the time, back in the 1970s, when I was serving […]

Verbiage? No Way!

Verbiage is often pronounced – mispronounced – to nearly rhyme with garbage, something with which it has a bit in common. Hold onto your hats. Here comes another language-related rant. This one’s about the widespread misuse and mispronunciation of the word verbiage. I can’t tell you how many times, as a writer, I’ve been asked […]

‘Educate’ vs. ‘Inform’

Education As regular readers of this blog are aware, every once in a while I take time away from retelling stories I find entertaining and go on a little language rant. As a writer and editor, I hope my friends will view this as coming inevitably with the territory. Today’s post – about the widespread […]

The Commencement Speech You’d Really Rather Hear

Graduation season is again upon us. The season for speechifying. As a professional speechwriter, I’d like to offer the following text for the featured speaker at whichever graduation you’ve been invited to attend: “Good morning, graduates, parents and guests. To provide some unexpected relief, I’ll be brief. I’ll simply answer a question many of you […]

Advance Man for the Grim Reaper? No, Thank You!

Stereotypical obit writer I recently read an article in The Economist about Obit, a documentary on the obituary writers at the New York Times. As someone whose writing credits include several obits, I found the article of considerable interest. I got my start in the genre when I was working as publications manager for Alexander […]

‘Bespoke’ vs. ‘Custom-Made’ or ‘Made-to-Order’

  Here’s a word that, in my view unfortunately, has been creeping into use in the U.S. – “bespoke,” as in a “bespoke” suit or shirt. Taking myself as a representative moderately well-educated American native speaker of English, I have to admit that the first couple of times I came across “bespoke” I was completely […]