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The Write Stuff

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The Write Stuff

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February 2018

Don’t Break What Doesn’t Need Fixing

By Alan Crawford,
Impact Editor

“My people skills are fine,” the T-shirt announces. “It’s my tolerance to idiots that needs work.”

I know the feeling. My tolerance to people who can wreck even the most common idiomatic expressions has about hit its limit. The phrase is “tolerance of,” not “tolerance to,” and the unnecessary substitution for a perfectly fine construction is both wearisome and worrisome.

In addition to being the editor of Impact, Alan Crawford is a published author and journalist. His latest book, How Not to Get Rich, looks at the financial misadventures of Mark Twain.

But I see and hear these strange verbal concoctions all the time now. Business Insider reports that McDonald’s is aware that some consumers are “embarrassed of the brand.” I’ve been embarrassed “by” things and even “for” people, but never embarrassed of either.

An author on C-SPAN has always been “curious of” her roots, instead of “about” them. The Amtrak conductor tells me we are “arriving to” Alexandria, instead of “at” or “in” that city.

Are Americans simply forgetting our everyday expressions, or deliberately trying to do something novel and startling with them? Beats me, but any needless “improvement” makes the writer (and speaker) sound either pretentious or simply tone-deaf about the words he or she uses. In either case, the practice is distorting our language and making the reader stop — almost always a mistake — and puzzle momentarily about what is going on. Because the use of these peculiarly popular constructions diverts attention from the subject at hand, it should be avoided.

Want More Information on This Topic?

Contact Alan Crawford, editor, Impact

Additional Resources

Speechwriting and Presentation Skills Workshop – May 22

The Write Stuff – Deadly Abstractions