By Mary Morel
Three words that many people hate are: got, but and that.
I have never understood why got receives such bad press. I agree you can often use more specific words to replace it:
I got a book out of the library.
I borrowed a book from the library.
But it is a versatile little word because it has so many different meanings.
The Macquarie Dictionary lists 40 different usages, including obtain, fetch, receive, earn, communicate and prepare.
I like the word but because it is simple and the alternatives, however and yet, are more formal.
But whether I use it or not, depends on the context. For example, I would not start a sentence with But in a formal document.
I have mixed feelings about that.
Often you can delete that without any loss of meaning, but sometimes it adds to the rhythm of a sentence.
Occasionally omitting that can create problems. Read some examples.
Other hated words
The Economist Style Guide (Profile Books, 2010) lists ‘horrible’ words and phrases. Here are a few of them:
- grow the business
- informed (as in ‘his love of language informed his memos’)
- likely (meaning ‘probably’, rather than ‘probable’)
- looking to (intending to)
- rack up (profits etc.)
- source (meaning ‘obtain’)
Learn more about words with my online course, Working with Words (just $39).