“As an editor, I like words…”

Guest post by Michele Callaghan

As an editor, I like words. It is safe to say that I love them. But sometimes there are just too many of them. This can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Turning perfectly good verbs into nouns just so you can add a preposition, repeating ideas and even whole sentences so the reader won’t miss that really great theory—these are just some of the things editors have to be on the lookout for. Today I want to offer you an editorial version of Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes. I feel impelled to indulge in a low key but fervent rant about the overuse of the wiggle words “hours” and “area.”

prroof reading marksRegarding hours: a trend in recent years is for weather forecasters to add this word to the end of all times of day in their reports. “The rain will begin the afternoon hours and continue into the evening hours and wrap up in the overnight hours.” Meteorologists, please, humor this editor and leave off the needless words! “The rain will begin in the afternoon, continue into the evening, and wrap up overnight.” Your listeners will know that the day and night are subdivided into hours.

Regarding area: a second trend is what sociologists call the HGTV factor. Our views on what houses should look like and expectations about what a perfect home might be are shaped by programs on that network. These shows accurately capture changes in the ways families live, with more people wanting a large open space than the small rooms with different functions of decades past. An offshoot of this is the growth of the word “area” to describe a room even when it is not necessary. So, an “open concept” house has a dining area because there are no walls separating it from the living area. But sometimes a room is just a room. There will be no confusion if you mention the kitchen; we all know where the stove and refrigerator are.

Remember what Mom always said: “Just because your friends are doing it doesn’t mean you have to.” So, just because some sloppy thinkers on TV are doing it doesn’t mean you don’t have to. People who love words treasure them and don’t waste them. Remove these areas of concern from your speech!

Michele Callaghan is a freelance editor, lover of words, and occasional contributor to the JHU Press Blog.