Having spent most of my career writing for a living, first as a journalist and then in public relations, I like to think I can string a sentence together (or perhaps not).
Throughout my career the focus has always been to ensure that the words written are easily understood.
And sometimes, that means breaking a few rules.
The Johnson column in The Economist is one of my favourite newspaper columns, discussing each week the finer points of the English language.
This week, the author picks on 'literally', and 'begs the question' - and rightly so.
It also questions the pedants who correct 'over' with a number (over 50 people attended our seminar) and 'comprised of' (and the audience comprised of GCs).
I freely used these, and more often than not their use will be corrected - usually by lawyers.
Johnson argues that they are so widely used, that they do not obscure meaning, and should be left alone.
Literally, over four people in our office, comprised of PR people, agree.
WHO doesn’t have their own little language peeve? “Literally” should be reserved for literal situations; there are plenty of ways to intensify a statement rather than saying, “We literally walked a million miles.” “To beg the question” is an old term from logic that means “to assume one’s own conclusion in an argument”; today, most people use it to mean “to prompt the question”. Two clauses connected by a comma, the “comma splice”, is jarring in good writing; people should avoid it.