I’m a copy editor. I read a lot. I spend entirely too much time thinking about the English language, punctuation, grammar, syntax, and other fascinating stuff that probably makes most people’s eyes glaze over. But that’s why TSC keeps me around.
Everyone has their pet peeves. I’m tired of people thinking they can’t split infinitives or end a sentence with a preposition. You can totally do both of those things. Anyone who says you can’t is wrong.
But that’s another blog post. Today I have a few words that I see far too often that could probably stand to take an extended vacay. If you find yourself clinging to these words like a staticky dress on panty hose, maybe it’s time to grab that dusty thesaurus and expand your linguistic horizons.
- Enable — Few words enable crappy writing like this one does. Like most of the words on this list, it’s not really wrong, but allow or makes possible get the point across just fine — and your writing will stand out from all the other jargon- and buzzword-addled copy out there.
- Empower — Empower is enable’s enlightened hippy sister. Brass knuckles are empowering. Software allows you to do more than you could before, but let’s not go crazy.
- Impact — If you’re using this word as a noun, e.g., “this blog post really made an impact on my ability to construct strong sentences,” you’re good. No action needed on your part; keep doing what you’re doing. However, if you’re using it as a verb, slow down — there are other words you could use. Affect, shape, transform, alter — these words are all acceptable alternatives.
- Utilize — It’s not wrong to use this verb, it’s just so overused and so unnecessary. Just say use. That’s usually what you mean and it sounds so much less cold and mechanical than utilize.
You’re not a terrible person if you use these words. I’m not going to come beat you with my Nightstick of Grammatical Superiority (though I may silently judge you). There is a time and place to use some of these words. But if you find yourself using them as a crutch when there are perfectly acceptable and accurate alternatives, maybe it’s time to step away from the keyboard and think about what you’re really trying to say. You’ll earn the trust of your customers as well as word-weary grammarians like myself.