Friday, August 14, 2015

Readers help columnist find the right words

     Tell me what is the most overused word in the English language.
     I posted this statement on “Kay Thomas writer’s” page on Facebook a couple weeks ago.
     Readers, you’ve come to the rescue.
     I asked for help. I received a ton of suggestions from you that I pondered carefully before I had my first cuppa of morning wake-up brew. Two days later, there were even more ideas dribbling in with detailed explanations and examples.
     Together you and I are validating the strings and arrows of language misfortune.
     Consider this a collaborative column then. It’s a second for me. I tried one back in 2013, “Looking at Beauty in a Special Way,” and it had great insights from Facebook friends that went way beyond what I understood about the subject.
     This leads me to confirm what I already know: There are no linguistic slouches out there in Livingston County and beyond.
      I shook my head in shame over a few words you mentioned for I work hard to use better ones in their places. Still, I get caught up in comfy, familiar words, too, “like” — a hackneyed word for sure — the rest of you. That’s where the trusty thesaurus online gets pulled up, or I wander off doing something else to unload my mind. The next morning the perfect word takes the place of the fuzzy one instantly.
      Here’s what you told me, and honestly, I “love” – oops, an over engaged word — that we have established such a friendly relationship as writer and reader it is possible to participate in making a unique column, and ultimately, a better newspaper.
     “Experts” in journalism say that a couple years of writing a column is enough before ideas start getting recycled, and readers tire of you. Four years is the max. My editor tells me to keep on writing – I appreciate his faith in me — and I don’t see an end in sight as of this deadline. If it weren’t pure merrymaking with a toss of wisdom thrown in, I wouldn’t be doing it in the first place.
     I know. I know. A fundamental rule in the news world is that the most important information should go in the beginning of an article. I am teasing you a bit here, and dragging out the suspense.
     Drum roll, please.
     The 8 overused words, and in no particular order:


      Your” list shouldn’t be a revelation.
      One reader says that she does not appreciate “awesome” spoken so casually and feels it should be reserved for something truly spectacular. Overuse kills. The same thing goes for “love.” Let’s hold on to those two words dearly and save them for the deserving special occasions. Stretch your vocabulary and you will find a myriad of other impressive words for daily usage.
     “It was like this, or you know like that” is a pretty vague statement in another person’s opinion. Get to the point and give specific details to prove your point. Explain the situation at hand clearly and save your shorthand language for texting.
      In order to qualify as overused words, both “seriously” and “really” must have an upward tone of inflection, and those two words annoy certain folks. Think before you speak and pay attention to the silly words you use over and over. Anytime a sentence ends with a questioning tone, it conveys a sense of uncertainty.
     “OK” is personally a pet peeve of mine, and with Kay as a nickname, I am forever turning my head looking for someone calling to me. Mothers in a crowd know the exact feeling, and instinctively glance around when they hear, “mom.” Use the word sparingly and develop a few phrases to mix and match in its place.
     “Nice” is trite. There are so many subtle and pleasant replacements to add to your vocabulary. Kill the desire to use it in writing, too, and make your words project energy and enthusiasm. Variety is the spice of life, and should be, before you are perceived as dull and unimaginative. Those crossword puzzles work well for boosting your brainpower and filling your word bank.
     One reader commented she believes that “can’t” is an “excuse” that is mushrooming in our culture; however, she has no statistical research to substantiate her theory. It might be a word that is defining a generation. I’ll be listening, and so should you.
     A majority of you came down hard on the fact that words are used incorrectly- mangled, if you prefer - in sentence structure, and that bugged them enough to make the statement. Grammar is important, and nothing is more telling than less than fluent speech. It is still taught in school if you haven’t checked lately.
     A perceptive reader says that she can't write a “certain” word here since this is family rated column. She hears it way too often. “It seems to me that as a society, we are completely lacking in creativity and imagination when it comes to cursing.” I don’t know about you, but as for me, I prefer not to hear trashy language when I am walking down the street.
     Whether you agree or not, you have written this column.
      If you want to continue the dialogue, or suggest a new one for a column, seek me out on “Kay Thomas writer.”  Thanks to those of you who read my frequent musings on any number of subjects. (By the way, if you haven’t found me there, it wouldn’t hurt to give the page a try).