Diction Exercise (383)

Edit the following sentences to replace words or expressions that are inappropriate in formal communication.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: The homeless man was beaten to death by three kids from the West Side.
Correct : The homeless man was beaten to death by three youths from the West Side.

Although widely used, "kid" is still not an appropriate choice when speaking or writing in a serious context. Depending upon age and gender, other possible choices would be: children (under 13), men (18+), women (18+), teens (13-18).

2.
Original: The district manager could of avoided the recall by adhering to the company’s inspection policies.
Correct : The district manager could have avoided the recall by adhering to the company’s inspection policies.

The spelling "could of" is influenced by oral speech and is slipping into written English where "could have" is called for.

3.
Original: If you want more of the movie and less commercials, tune in to Channel 5.
Correct : If you want more of the movie and fewer commercials, tune in to Channel 5.

Although many speakers use "less" to modify count nouns, formal style still prefers to reserve "less" for non-count nouns and to use "fewer" for nouns that are counted: "less soup, fewer commercials."

4.
Original: The governor is expected to tout her plan for removing limitations on adoption.
Correct : The governor is expected to promote her plan for removing limitations on adoption.

The word "tout" has associations with horse racing, especially the passing on of information that may have been obtained by spying. Headline writers often use the word "tout" in a context better served by the verbs promote, present, or discuss.

5.
Original: The police arrived before the intruders took it on the lam.
Correct : The police arrived before the intruders fled.

Criminal slang has become very common in the U. S. news media. The effect is to normalize the criminal viewpoint in a way that perhaps the writer does not intend.

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