10 Dec 2005

Written verbal tics

I’ve been meaning to write this down for a long time. There are two very widespread and very annoying idioms that I see a lot in amateur writing. The main example of the kind of writing I mean is product reviews on sites like Amazon, but I see it also on Macworld, CNet and other more professional sites.

The first is the word “little” as in “this little device from Apple,” or even worse, “this little gem from Apple.” There’s nothing wrong with it really, it’s just hugely overused, and I’m oversensitive to triteness. The second phrase is “a winner,” as in “this telescope is a real winner.” Both phrases are frequently found together, as in “This little gem from Apple is a definite winner!” Cut it out, please.

While I’m here, let me point out one more horribly annoying habit: listing three things and then saying “oh my.” This is hugely common in cutesy computer publications like Macworld, as in “iPods and iTunes and iMacs, oh my!” It’s not funny, and you probably already used the joke six times a year for the last five years!

Am I just an ass who likes to find flaws in other people, so that I can dismiss them? Probably. But I also think that the best writers are probably aware of pitfalls like these and strive to avoid them.