de la Bédoyère’s Maxims No 11

1 Words are like carpenter’s tools. Keep them sharp and use them precisely.

2 Words are like carpenter’s tools. You do not need many of them, but you must have enough to suit them to the job in hand.

3 Those who use the phrase ‘each and every..’ to magnify their statements only succeed in showing their unfamiliarity with the English language.

4 Even apparently educated people do not know the difference between ‘uninterested’ and ‘disinterested’. No American knows the difference, but then they lack a concept of disinterest.

5 Even apparently educated people do not know the difference between ‘refute’ and ‘rebut’.

6 If what you have written cannot be understood by a bright ten-year-old you have some re-writing to do.

7 Welcome criticism of your words or the clarity of your expressions. No man lives long enough to be a complete master of his own language

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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4 Responses to de la Bédoyère’s Maxims No 11

  1. tim says:

    Even apparently educated people say things like “If Edward VIII had not married Mrs Simpson, he may not have abdicated”, when we know perfectly well that he did abdicate, so it makes no sense to say he may not have done.

    I do my best to provide the requested criticism of the maxims, but have nothing to offer this week.

  2. Trident says:

    I’m with Quentin on this. All the texting and emailing we do makes us careless. There’s nothing to beat a fountain pen and a sheet of good paper. My particular beef is about changes in pronunciation. ‘Harass’ now has the emphasis on the second syllable, so does ‘formidable’. No doubt these are perfectly acceptable in somewhere like Yorkshire, but sound very odd within the pale of civilisation. And the other day I heard a commentator on the BBC pronounce ‘leverage’ with a short first ‘e’, like the Americans. No wonder our financial system is going to the dogs.

  3. Iona says:

    Some commonly met with and irksome confusions:

    diffuse and defuse
    affect and effect
    flaunt and flout

  4. kouin says:

    “My head feels like what a catapillar looks like.”
    said Petr Ginz with his painting.

    “our policy on this…”
    said animal cruelity customer services.

    “read the creed”.
    said a sophisticated abstractionist pacifist purist.

    ‘Alcoholer’ and ‘alcoholic’
    scans as one who uses
    and one who abuses.

    “Taking a lesson and taking a beating are different but take a stance.”
    said the brahma dragon.

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