7/24/2008

Specific reasons to avoid various and some

A cry for help! More important, a reader! These are the things that make blogging worthwhile ...
Hi, Mr. Rewrite.
I have a question that seems to be a perfect topic for you. What do you think about the word various in news reports (or anywhere)? It seems to me that, while not exactly redundant, it never adds any information.

She had various concerns about usage.
She had concerns about usage.
A favorite colleague when Mr. Rewrite worked on the national desk of a large news organization coined the phrase NEWS-O. "It looks like news. It sounds like news," he would say. "But it isn't news!" It applied to words, passages and whole stories that sounded official or relevant but in fact said nothing.

That's how Mr. Rewrite feels about a word such as various. At first glance, it might seem to add to the sentence above. At best, however, it adds nothing but needless syllables. The sentence reads better without various because it is so vague (and redundant in this context). At worst, various can distort because it offers no sense of scale.

A better example is some, which is a dangerous word in journalism -- "Some say Politician A is on the take." How many people say so? What is their authority to make this assessment? Some doesn't begin to address this, but it adds a tone of authority. The example is exaggerated, but this construction shows up over and over in news stories.

Mr. Rewrite has come to refer to words such as various and some as "squishy." He counsels writers to avoid them.

Getting back to the question above, gentle reader, you should drop various, though it might be more compelling to provide an example or two of the most important concerns.

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Mr. Rewrite is learning Flash 8. His first animated gif is above. Rah.

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