The Sentence Samurai Strikes Again

sentence-samurai-copyAs Grammar Smith walked down the hallway of the old, high-ceilinged
building, she saw officers in crime scene gear shuffling in and out of the door at the far end. Occasional flashes punctuated the hallway.

A woman clutching a manuscript to her chest sobbed on one bench while another, looking bored
and impatient, sat on another.

“It’s a real massacre,” Dis Connect murmured in Grammar’s ear. “I haven’t seen anything like this since Stephen King blew through.”

Grammar poked her head in the door. The room was a typical editing office: desks, computers, reference books, and a giant coffee maker. Typical except for the puddles of non-repro blue ink and bodies of bloated phrases everywhere.

Grammar took Dis off to the side. “Give me the breakdown.”

“Ten due to the fact thats, 32 nowadays, 257 unnecessary uses of the verb to be, 88 and alsos, 19 we as human beings, and an it was a dark and stormy night.”

“Have you interviewed the witnesses?”

Dis colored. “Um, well, Ms. Scrivener was so upset, I figured I’d let her calm down a bit.”

Chicken! Grammar thought as she sat next to Ms. Scrivener. Patting the woman’s hand, Grammar asked, “Can you tell me what happened?”

“It was horrible! The ink everywhere! Phrases lying around! Look at my baby!” The writer thrust the crumpled, damp manuscript at Grammar. “It’s half what it was when I brought it in here. This place is a charnel house.”

“Oh, give me a break!” the woman from the other bench said. “That manuscript’s a thousand times more readable now.”

“And you are?” Grammar asked.

“Tweakly Fine-Tune. I run this business.”

“There’s no sign of a forced entry. Do you have any idea how the perpetrator got in?”

“Probably over the transom,” Ms. Fine-Tune said pointing to the open glass panel above the door.

“Yes, it looks like the Sentence Samurai has been here,” Grammar said to Dis.

“Hey, Lieutenant,” Ms. Fine-Tune said. “When will you folks be done? I’ve got to get rid of that stench of passive voice and get back to work.”


10 Forbidden Phrases

John Bosco, the patron saint of editors, must hate me.

I have spent a lifetime twecut out wordinessaking others’ writing (professionally or compulsively), but grading composition papers at the junior college level is the toughest assignment yet.

Do you think I’m kidding? I spent ten years as a newspaper editor and even did a stint correcting the essays of state mandated K12 tests (during which time the gods of penmanship exacted their revenge). I know what I’m talking about here.

The main problem is my students’ tendency to use phrases and words that don’t do anything. They infuse their writing with trite clichés, repetition, and bloated phrases. Why? I can only attribute it to one thing: the dreaded word count.

My students are absorbed with meeting the minimum required words in assignments. I have seen some stop during tests to count each word on their paper to make sure they hit the requirement so they can stop writing. They seek quantity, not quality.

I tell them that, if they are adding enough detail and description, the words will come making the word count a non-issue. Some never believe me. So, in an attempt to save the lingering shreds of my sanity, I have come up with a list of banned phrases. These are things I never want to see in any of their writing:

  1. “In this day and age” or any of its versions – Use “now,” “today,” or, better yet, the present tense of the verb.
  2. “Nowadays” – See above. So many can’t even spell it correctly.
  3. “Due to the fact that” – What’s the matter with “because”?
  4. “The reason for this is because” – Basically, this is a six-word phrase that means nothing. Just make the statement.
  5. “We as humans” – What else would we be, giraffes?
  6. “In my humble opinion” – If you are writing it, it is your opinion. This is just a pompous waste of space.
  7. “What I think is” – A less pompous version of the previous phrase.
  8. “Being that” – Besides being poor writing, any sentence that starts this way is sure to present grammatical difficulties.
  9. “In the day” or “back in the day” – What day, exactly, was that? It’s like saying, “in days of yore.”
  10. “And also” – This one sets my teeth on edge. The two words mean the same thing. Why are people compelled to throw “also” in where it doesn’t belong? Would they write “Dear dear Bob Bob, I I love love you you”? No! So leave out the “also”!

There are so many more of these phrases out there that I just can’t think of right now. Maybe I have some sort of psychological block, but I know unneeded words when I see ’em.

What are some forbidden phrases on your list?