MCCULLOUGH: Let's stop mincing words

Nate McCullough

Nate McCullough

Words are my business.

Whether it’s reading them, editing them, deciding how to display them on a page or writing them, my chosen profession revolves around words. For the most part, I love them.

But a few are getting on my nerves. Well, it’s not so much the words as the way people use them.

So, people, take note:

• Please give “amazing” a rest. This adjective needs an immediate hiatus. Everyone on television who is less than 30 years old uses this word to describe absolutely everything that’s good in any way. The hosts of one show I watch think every musician that comes on the show is amazing, their records are amazing, their performances are amazing. Someone please give these people a thesaurus.

One of the bachelor/bachelorette reality shows overused “amazing” so much — “That was an amazing date with amazing food at an amazing location with an amazing person” — that Jimmy Kimmel made a game of counting the number of times it was uttered.

Keep this in mind: For something to be amazing, it has to “fill with great surprise or sudden wonder.” (That’s Webster’s.) Words that also mean amazing: Astonished, bewildered, astounded. Try them out.

• “Impactful” is not a word. It’s not in the dictionary. It’s a word bureaucrats made up because they thought it would make them sound smarter. “This project will be extremely impactful to the community.” What’s wrong with it having “a great impact?”

Also, I don’t know when the dictionary people decided to cave on using impact as a verb, but I strongly disagree on that, too. The dictionary at least acknowledges my displeasure because it says so right in the definition: “to affect: a usage objected to by some.”

I allow one person a pass on this rule. A reporter here can never remember the difference between affect and effect, so by mutual agreement the reporter writes the word impact and then we change it to what it should be.

The rest of the world is on notice.

• You’re not “dialoguing.” You’re just talking, or conversing if you’re feeling distinguished. This is another one that’s similar to using impact as a verb — it’s not technically wrong but irritates me nonetheless. Why politicians have to say, “We’ll dialogue about this,” when they could just talk about it is beyond me.

• Be a people person. If there is more than one human in a location, then there are people there, not “persons.” “Persons” has one use, when it’s at the end of a word and is being used to avoid implying everyone being described is a man, i.e. chairpersons. Other than that, persons is another word that people use to sound official. Cops are particularly fond of its singular form as a synonym for body: “I smelled an odor of marijuana coming from his person. A gun was found on his person.” No. He smelled like marijuana. You found a gun in his pocket. Write it in your report that way.

• Literally doesn’t mean “a lot” or “I really, really mean it.” The word literally is used to inform the person listening to you that you are not exaggerating. “There were literally 10,000 people there,” when there were actually 10,000 people there is fine. “There were literally a million people there,” when there were only 10,000 is an exaggeration and the complete opposite of the purpose of the word.

Think of the wonderful impact you could have if you take note of this list and act appropriately. Tell your friends and make a lot of people happy.


E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.