When I edit someone else’s work, I try to be pragmatic and flexible. I strive to be open-minded.
I don’t want to be that guy who just ruthlessly rewrites, revises and reprimands without any compassion or democratic exchange. I don’t want to be a joyless enforcer of rules, an inflexible word accountant.
I like to let loose and get mildly subversive with a bit of well-timed, well-executed grammatical rule-bending as much as the next guy.
There is, however, a handful of words and phrases that rankle my soul and provoke my editorial indignation.
I understand that no one likes people who dictate what to do or how to write, so please take these with a grain of salt. Though let’s be honest we can probably do without all of the following:
Impactful. This is not a word. You hear and see this non-word so frequently that it seems inevitable it will eventually steamroll its way into some kind of official status. Though in the same spirit of fighting against the seemingly unstoppable stream of Jets and Patriots fans clogging up South Florida, I encourage you to push against the tide by rejecting the validity of “impactful.”
Make a difference. Having worked in the nonprofit realm for years, I always find this irksome. Oh, I can “make a difference”? What kind of difference?
I contracted dengue fever a few years ago; that sure made a difference in my life. Being attacked by a monkey in Costa Rica made a difference to me. Different kinds of dental floss can make a difference, as can shoes with varying amounts of arch support.
Please don’t let tired clichés prevent you from making a difference in your community, empowering change, standing in the gap, or making the world a better place. Together, we can.
Provide with/Provide to. It’s not wrong to “provide someone with” something or to “provide it to” someone, but who talks like that? Can you just “give it to them” instead?
“Touching” as an adjective. I don’t want any part of your “touching” tribute and certainly not your “touching” video. On a similar note, please do not attempt to “touch my base.”
“Hacking” this or that. Technically, I am a millennial (just barely), but sometimes I see things on the Internet that immediately turn me into an apoplectic octogenarian who longs for the good old days when cleaning the bathroom was just cleaning the bathroom. I’m all for tips, ideas, suggestions or solutions, but get out of here with your bathroom cleaning, telephone, dinner and hairstyle “hacks.”
OK, y’all run along now; “Matlock” just came on.
Robby Brumberg is a writer and editor based in Florida.