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Nov 14 / King Kaufman

Some tips on “modern usage” from the New York Times

The Times Insider blog offers a glimpse into its Manual of Style and Usage with a piece headlined “Please. Don’t ‘Decry’ the ‘Divorcée.’ Or Give Us Your ‘CV.’ The Times Guide to Modern Usage.”

The post advertises itself as “an inside look at the changing world of speech and usage,” though it could just as well be described as an inside look at the Times’ opinions on certain usage issues:

edgy. … avoid the meaning of far out or on the edge; that sense gained cliché status almost overnight.

heart condition. Every heart has some kind of condition. Write heart ailment, disease, etc., instead.

These things are often a little fussy, but I like reading them because they remind me to think carefully and precisely about the words I use.

claim is not a neutral synonym for say. It means assert a right or contend something that may be open to question.

Far East. Do not use this Western-centric term except for special effect. Ordinarily, use a more specific regional name: East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia.

And sometimes I learn things. I didn’t know before reading this post that casket is not a synonym for coffin, though I wonder why the Times wants its writers to “use coffin instead” when the two words are not interchangeable.

These are the kinds of things that keep me up at night.