Writing & Grammar: Speech Errors in Print... Stop the Madness!
by Jennie Ruby
Some errors commonly made in speech seem about to make their way into the world of print. Should we let this happen? Let's look at a few examples.
In spoken English people are using conversate as a verb. The correct verb is converse. What has happened is that the noun conversation, which is itself based on the original verb converse, is being reinterpreted as a new verb. The technical term for this unnecessary creation of a verb from a noun when a correct verb already exists is back-formation. The same is true of administrate: the correct verb is administer. Interpretate: interpret. Orientate: orient. Solicitate: solicit. I say we all watch for these and do not allow them into print!
Another speech-ism that is a problem is the use of whenever to mean when. I think this may be a regional usage because I have heard individuals from Florida and Oklahoma use this, whereas people from Maryland do not. For example, a person might say "I'll go to the restaurant early, and whenever I get there I will reserve a table for us." In this sentence, whenever should be when, because it is a one-time-only event. Whenever should be reserved for repeating behavior, as in this sentence: "My cat routinely jumps onto the countertop to beg for food. Whenever she does this, I make her get down."
Repeated words are often used in speech and in highly rhetorical or artistic writing for emphasis and effect. In speech, repeating words or ideas sometimes gives the speaker time to think of what to say next or is intended to give the listener time to focus. Some common locutions are repeating the word is or inserting an unnecessary pronoun after the noun: "What it is, is that..." or "Mr. Jones, he...." Again, let's not let these get into print or into formal and business writing. These expressions are considered nonstandard grammar.
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