Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Verbal Awareness.

Verbal Awareness. To keep from making unconscious gaffes or miscues — as by referring to a “virgin field pregnant with possibilities” — writers must be aware of all the meanings of a word because its potential meanings can sabotage the intention. Careful users of language don’t let a sign such as “Ears Pierced While You Wait” go unnoticed. Nor do they overlook the humor in the church bulletin that reads, “All women wishing to become Young Mothers should visit the pastor in his office.” Likewise, writers ought not to refer to “Roe v. Wade and its progeny” — though several prominent writers have done just that. Or consider how the writer must feel after seeing this in print: “[A] DNA study confirmed to the satisfaction of many that a male member of Jefferson’s family had fathered at least one child with a mulatto slave named Sally Hemings.” Anita Hamilton, “A Family Divided,” Time, 5 July 2004, at 64. (The term “male member” is salaciously misleading there. “Male” could have been omitted: most readers would have known the father’s sex.) A heightening of verbal awareness would save writers from such oddities — and potential embarrassments. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “A writer, if he is to be reasonably honest, must express sentiments repugnant to a good many people.” Richard Neuberger, “I Run for Office” (1947), in Think Before You Write 30, 33 (William G. Leary & James Steel Smith eds., 1951).  
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