- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2000

Truth is always the first casualty in any war, foreign or domestic, but the Queen's English is taking a horrific beating on the hustings. The FBI should put out an all-points bulletin.

The crimes against the language are not just by the candidates, even though the candidates are among the worst offenders. But at least they've got a right to their loopiness. We're barely past New Hampshire and already everyone's groggy from repeating cliches that were worn to a nub in the previous millennium.

Pundits and reporters are guilty of abuse and excess, too, squirting cliches, mangling metaphors and scattering hyperbole as if with manure spreaders. Only the most conscientious ones wedge an occasional bit of news between breathless reams of polling trivia, usually expressed in jargon bordering on gibberish.

One hitherto unreported fact is that 43.6 percent of all polling data is made up on the spot (subject to a 3.1 percent margin of error). On the Sunday morning political talk shows, the made-up facts or "factoids," in Norman Mailer's much-misused term actually comprise 57.4 percent by volume (adjusted seasonally).

Reporters can always (and always do) blame their lapses of judgment and taste on their editors, which is what editors are there for, and candidates can always blame their speech writers. But not always. Bill Clinton makes up stuff that everybody knows has to be of his own making, like his famous "country wit" of the '92 campaign: "We've got a saying down in Arkansas that if you see a turtle on a fence post, you know it didn't get there by itself." Nobody in Arkansas had actually ever heard anyone say that. But Mr. Clinton is a New Yorker now, so we can't be too hard on him for being unfamiliar with Arkansas lore and customs.

An addict of whoppers, New Yorker or not, is probably beyond help, but a lot of the substance abuse on the hustings is mere ignorance, born of not paying attention in 10th-grade English class. So in the spirit of remedial concern, we pass along these tips (some of which were passed on to me by Internet readers).

* Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

* Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

* And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.

* It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

* Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)

* Also, always avoid astonishing and annoying alliteration.

* Be more or less specific most of the time.

* Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

* Also, too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

* No sentence fragments.

* Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.

* Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

* Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.

* One should never generalize.

* Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

* Don't use no double negatives. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

* One-word sentences? Eliminate.

* An analogy in writing is like putting silk stockings on a banty rooster.

* The passive voice is to be avoided.

* Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary.

* Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.

* Never use a big word when substituting a diminutive one would suffice.

* Kill all exclamation points!!!

* Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.

* Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earthshaking ideas.

* Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.

* Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."

* If you've heard it once, you've heard it a million times Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a trillion can use it correctly.

* Ride a snappin' turtle to the nearest fence post to avoid colloquialisms.

* Even if a mixed metaphor sings soprano, it should be derailed.

* Who needs rhetorical questions?

* Exaggeration is a quadrillion times worse than understatement.

* Avoid "buzzwords"; sharing integrated transitional scenarios complicate simplistic matters, and rarely heal divisions.

* And finally … Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

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