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 […]

Windiness Is Ubiquitous

Nearly a year ago I wrote about unnecessarily windy phrases like “next week Wednesday” and “15-year anniversary.” It seems, however, that the wind never stops blowing. Have you ever noticed how people sometimes appear to forget simple words and instead use liberally loquacious locutions (there’s one!) whose extra length only makes reading tiresome? Want another […]

‘Regard’ vs. ‘Regards’

  Regular readers* of this blog probably realize by now that I often react to poor usage almost as I do to the sound of fingernails on a blackboard. So – Surprise! Surprise! – here’s something else that bothers me: seeing “regards” written in place of “regard.” One extra letter makes a big difference. The […]