[M.M.X.I.V. 235] Qualifiers

By qualifiers, I am not talking about the exam that I passed two years ago.  Instead, I am referring to words which clog sentences and weaken them, whether they come at the beginning, middle, or end.  Some of these examples:

Basically.

Very.

Extremely.

Tends to.

Personally.

Frankly.

Last night at dinner, one of my conversations drifted toward this topic.  As it turns out, I may have been primed for considering this after having read an article by Mary Schmich on the “waiter’s we.”  It was a funny parody on the fact that waiters will often use the word “we” to refer to the people at the table, even though (s)he should really exclude him/herself from the subject.

A follow-up appeared yesterday, with readers chiming in their own language rants.  One of these include the traditional “My meal is not a construction project” in response to a waiter’s “Are you still working on that?”  I occasionally lampshade this if I am asked the question at a restaurant.

(Actually, I have my own behavior at restaurants which becomes a pet peeve to Casey.  Ever since I was in 10th grade, I have sometimes ordered dihydrogen monoxide at restaurants, which drew the ire of my siblings.  On times when I ate at restaurants with my high school Science Olympiad team, on the other hand, the request elicited laughs from my teammates and confusion (but no Freemasons or Return By Sensation By Concrete Results) from the server.)

Several other “we” constructions came up, such as the “sports fan’s we” (I am often guilty of that!) the pregnant “we” (since men don’t get pregnant!), and we can probably think of many other situations where “we” is used inappropriately.

At the end of the article, other pet peeves came up, including preludes to sentences which weaken the argument or are simply annoying.  So, even if I am guilty of some of these annoyances, it is not easy to change.  I frequently start sentences with “So” or “But” whereas it is best to DROP those words!  Maybe I will have a friend one day who is named “Robert’); DROP TABLE Qualifiers;–

I have not yet mentioned any of the qualifiers that I listed at the beginning of the post!  These tend to appear in sentences for undue emphasis.  In particular, very and extremely (and their ilk) weaken a sentence, as the sentence most often can stand alone without the use of the qualifier.  If the qualifier gets overused, it really loses its meaning.  Of course, also consider the use of the qualifier “literally” since the new self-contradictory definition came out.  So, if the word contradicts itself, that must mean that it doesn’t exist.  (Give me the $\blitza$ or $\lightning$ symbol if I could use LaTeX on WordPress!

I end the post with a few examples of meaningless, extraneous, or even threatening sentence preludes.  In the Schmich article, one pet peeve was “personally,” as in, “Personally, reducing the number of qualifiers in my sentences I hope to achieve.”  You do not need to use “personally” or “in my opinion” when what you are about to say is likely your opinion anyway!  Colloquialisms like this find their ways into writing, and as aforementioned, a habit is hard to break.

Threatening?  I have three examples from personal experience.  Frankly, if I hear THIS qualifier at the beginning of a sentence, it perks up my Fight or Flight response.  An example: I saw it in an e-mail after I was allegedly “arrogant” and “rules-lawyering” at a tournament.  This was irksome to me, because in some sense I took his advice prior to this tournament too far.  There have been some other times where “frankly” at the beginning of a sentence put me into Panic Mode, but that is the one that was most salient when I think of the word.

To be honest, this qualifier serves the same purpose and intimidation factor as “frankly.”

Lastly, last night when I was in a conversation, saving a seat for a friend, the person that I chatted with led off a sentence with “No offense” before requesting that I cede the seat to this friend when she arrived back at the table.  I would have been fine if this person had said it in a different way, but leading off the sentence with “No offense” had exactly the opposite internal response.  It is more offensive to lead off a sentence with “No offense” since the saying itself may not be offensive.

What other language peeves related to qualifiers and fillers do my readers have?  Let me know in the comments!

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Today is the two-hundred and thirty-fifth day of M.M.X.I.V.  That makes thirty-three weeks and four days.

Today is the fortieth day of the Character Building Trial.  That makes five weeks and four days.

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