3 Cases of Distracting Usage
Word choice is problematic when the sense of a selected word, when read in association with another word, creates a diversion for the reader that distracts from the content. Here are three sentences with distracting words, along with solutions for revising them to avoid the distraction.
1. “He turned heads in scientific circles when he proposed that climate change is the driving force in human revolution.”
The association of the past tense of the idiom “turn heads,” which means “draw sudden attention,” with the phrase “scientific circles,” a figure of speech in which the plural form of circle refers to a broad community of people with a common interest, unfortunately suggests that the subject caused the heads of his colleagues to rotate in a scientific manner. Revise one expression or the other: “He turned heads in the scientific community when he proposed that climate change is the driving force in human revolution” or “He attracted attention in scientific circles when he proposed that climate change is the driving force in human revolution.”
2. “The redrawn logo has drawn criticism.”
The proximity of the adjective redrawn, which refers to the act of drawing an illustration over again, and the use of drawn as a verb to mean “attracted” creates an unintentionally humorous collision of ideas. Again, reword the adjective or the verb: “The revised logo has drawn criticism” or “The redrawn logo has attracted criticism.”
3. “An Ohio city will settle a lawsuit over 911 calls.”
Because over is often used in place of “more than” to mean “an excess of,” the reader may momentarily assume that the number 911 is an amount rather than a sequence of digits that constitute a phone number. Replace over with another word (“An Ohio city will settle a lawsuit regarding 911 calls”) or, better, provide unambiguous details: “An Ohio city will settle a lawsuit regarding emergency 911 calls” or “An Ohio city will settle a lawsuit regarding calls made to 911.”
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