Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: Debugging Your Writing

Every Wednesday, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 features handy tips to enhance all of our writing, from daily emails to articles to books. After all, everyone needs to write, right?


About six years ago, Sue Sommer wrote a handy little book on grammar and spelling based on her experience as a high school Honors English and creative writing teacher. A past winner of the Golden Bell Award for Excellence in Teaching, Sommer also had worked as a magazine editor and proofreader. She knows her stuff. The book, The Bugaboo Review: A Lighthearted Guide to Exterminating Confusion About Words, Spelling, and Grammar, is one of the resources I keep on my desk.

In The Bugaboo Review, Sommer has a page on absolutes, words that cannot have degrees attached to their use, meaning they should be used without adverb modifiers, such as most, very, or quite. Absolutes are the "be all, end all," so to speak. 

"Don't use phrases such as more unique, very favorite, most perfect, very final draft, very best, almost correct, fairly complete," Sommer writes. 

Correct is a great example. Something is either correct or it's not. There's no in-between. Same goes for perfect. 

Here is Sommer's list of some absolutes. 


Absolutes are great examples of less is more sometimes in writing. Do you have any absolutes you'd like to add to the list? Let me know in the comments section.

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Anonymous said…
"Optimal" would be another example. Or "minimal".

Is it allowed to use "the very best" for emphasis?
Great additions to the list, angel011.

A lot of advertising uses the phrase "the very best," but really, the best is the best, period. I'd shy away from it.
Lol Off topic but I love the word bugaboo!
Mel Parish said…
This is a great reminder because so many of those words are modified nowadays that there is a tendency to overlook the fact that the resultant phrase doesn't make much sense. Advertising has a lot to answer for!
Absolutely, Mel. Advertising constantly adds modifiers to absolutes. Like anything can be better than best?!?

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