Thursday, October 14, 2010

Don’t misuse the verb “to see”

Because the verb to see is a familiar verb, we often misuse it: we try to force it to do the work of more-specific verbs.


From a column in the Guardian (UK): “The incidents in America on 9/11 (2001) and in London on 7/7 (2005) saw the greatest ever peacetime growth in spending on security. Unlike most forms of public spending, this one could by its nature demand cash with menaces and with no account of value for money.” (Boldface added.)

The first sentence boils down to “Incidents saw growth.” But saw is too vague here. The columnist was probably too hurried to identify and use the more-specific verb he had in the back of his mind. We readers are left to guess: was that verb triggered, occasioned, justified, excused, or rationalized? Or something else?

The Takeaway: Don’t misuse the verb to see. It is frequently tempting to use it instead of a more-specific verb. But doing so can weaken your copy and can even obscure your meaning.

See disclaimer.

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