Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: sustained injuries.

“Sustained injuries” is officialese for “was injured” — e.g.: “Also since the series, parents have filed lawsuits alleging two area children sustained injuries [read ‘were injured’] at unsafe play areas.” Rosa Salter, “L.V. Dad Envisions Playground Safety Network,” Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.), 25 Nov. 1996, A.M. Mag. §, at D1. Why prefer an edit that introduces the passive voice? This edit illustrates the principle that passive voice is usually preferable to a buried verb (“injuries”). To “sustain injuries to (a body part)” is usually verbose for “injure: — e.g.: o “The woman sustained injuries to her head and neck [read ‘injured her head and neck’] in the accident at 11:40 a.m. Jan. 11.” “Police Report,” Milwaukee J. Sentinel, 18 Jan. 1996, at 14. o “Kennard, in her mid-30s, sustained injuries to her jaw, neck and shoulder [read ‘injured her jaw, neck, and shoulder’], and has severe headaches, Collins said.” Ted Cilwick, “Jury Awards Woman Who Slipped in Mall Half-Million Dollars,” Salt Lake Trib., 26 Nov. 1996, at B4. To argue that those edits make the victim sound responsible for his or her injuries is to ignore an age-old English idiom. A football player might hurt his arm in a game — might even break his arm — and no one would be led to think that it was a self-inflicted wound. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “‘Efficiency’ does not mean the paper with the shortest length; rather, [it means] the paper that takes readers the shortest time to understand.” Michael Alley, The Craft of Scientific Writing 15 (1987).
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