Sunday, November 16, 2014

On Writing: Word Choice and Precision

Most people these days know the confusion-language anomaly wherein "flammable" and "inflammable" are synonyms. If you hadn't heard that one, now you have; it's true.

Another one that most people haven't heard is bi-weekly/bi-monthly/bi-yearly. Some people assert that it means twice a week/month/year; some insist it means every two weeks/months/years. Who's right?

Well, they're both right. So in some instances, bi-weekly and bi-monthly can mean the same thing: when "bi-weekly" refers to every two weeks and "bi-monthly" means twice a month.

There's one that I've long suffered for: plans versus intentions. Some people use them interchangeably. However, "plans" are methods that are meant to be followed while "intentions" are plans that you expect to act on. You can make plans without intending on doing them. In some people's heads, that's a grey line to walk.

For reasons that I don't understand, semantic clarification annoys some people. It bothers them when I restate my case because I feel that they didn't assume my intended meaning, and depending on the topic, misunderstandings can be bad for your health.