All in Good Fun: Usage Peeve Bingo by Stan Carey
Stan Carey continues to be an editor after my own heart. On his Sentence First blog, and around the Web, he fights the good fight against empty, peeving editing, but fuels that fight with good sense, humor, and an obvious love of language and great writing.
When a recent article in the Guardian decried “fashionable but incorrect usages” such as the metaphorical literally and the hyperbolic fantastic, I appreciated Carey’s informative comment pointing out a few of the “unsupported peeves” in the article. I appreciated his tweet about it even more because it added the cheeky idea of “peever’s bingo.” Then he actually produced a Usage Peeve Bingo card on his blog. Fantastic.
As Carey notes, some of the items are nonstandard and “generally avoided in formal writing; others are unfairly decried.” Commonly, loudly, sometimes abusively decried. Like Carey, I find most of them to be “unworthy of any irritation.” Even the metaphorical literally, which literally makes my stomach twist into a knot, has its established place in English and in some of the materials I may edit. I don't use it in my own writing, except in jest, but seeing it in someone else's doesn't ruin my day or make me lament the state of the world's written English.
Editing isn’t about scrubbing the world’s texts clean of your particular peeves. Editing is about ensuring clear communication between writers and readers. Adhering to particular styles of language will always be secondary. For the sake of your blood pressure and sanity, I hope you’ve given up the peever’s approach to editing and that the next time you encounter either peever’s fodder or diatribes you can sit back and enjoy a rousing round of Usage Peeve Bingo.