Word Up – Frank McNally with a further (but not farther) reading from the Stylebook of Leviticus

An Irishman’s Diary

A further (but not farther) reading from the Stylebook of Leviticus.

Write ye not the word “sew” when ye mean “sow”, or vice versa; that is unclean. For if a man seweth seeds, and the seeds be small and hard, he will surely break his needle eventually, and also suffer eyestrain.

Likewise, a woman who soweth a garment will wait in vain for a crop from it, unless the garment be unclean too. And even then, it is unlikely to have enough soil to sustain vegetables.

Only the foolish man will sew wild oats, meanwhile. And when he does, there will be no reaping, only gnashing of teeth.


Neither should a wise man sew discord, unless he hath a funny accent, in which case he may sew datcord as well, although neither is recommended.

Write ye not that a person hath “passed away” when ye mean “died”. That is a euphemistic abomination. But neither say that a person hath “sadly died”. For if ye do, ye imply that it was the deceased who was sad – as well they might be – while the adverb sayeth nothing about how anyone else felt.

At the other extreme, refer ye not to “live audiences”. That too is unclean. For the reader may safely assume that an audience, if it be an audience, is alive, however unresponsive. Yea, even a Zoom audience liveth, although it may be hard to tell sometimes, especially if their mute buttons be on.

Note that for the remainder of the current plague, the name of the group known as “Nphet” should be written accordingly, with capital N and the rest in lower case. Yea, others may still prefer NPHET, as if the name be an initialism and not an acronym.

But woe unto such pedantites. For Nphet is now used as a word, albeit an ungainly one. And although, as the proverb sayeth, a Nphet may never be accepted in its own country, it hath a better chance of success if it appeareth as a proper noun.

Note that “roadmap” is one word; likewise “rollout”, when thou useth it as a noun. But use both sparingly, as the wise virgin useth lamp-oil.

For the roadmap to hell is paved with clichés, and traffic is expected to be especially heavy in coming months as the country emergeth from pestilence.

Although the emergence plan be officially titled “Covid-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021 – The Path Ahead”, use only “The Path Ahead” for simplicity’s sake. The path may or may not be on the roadmap and, either way, appeareth narrow and difficult. Too many rollouts on it asketh for trouble. Avoid also “ramp-ups”, where possible, for similar reasons.

Elsewhere, write ye not “meter” – a measuring device – when ye mean “metre” – a measurement. Likewise, confuse not “mete” with “meet”. Ye may “mete out” punishment, for example, and if ye be wise, the punishment will be “meet”. But a “meeting” should not be punitive for anyone, unless it be on Zoom with bad wifi. Then the difference between mete and meet may be moot.

However much you think it impresseth people, meanwhile, avoid the word “metrics” unless thou referest to the study of measurement. Otherwise, the word thou needest is probably just “figures”. Saying “metrics” doth not make you sound more intelligent.

Nor doth saying you will “revert” to somebody later. To revert meaneth “to go back to a former state”. Thus, a garden may revert to wilderness, if untended. A reformed sinner may revert to evil ways. But ye may not revert to someone by email, verily, unless perhaps ye plan to do it yesterday.

If ye do plan to do it yesterday, by the way, that still doth not make it a “pre-plan”. Avoid also “pre-book” and “pre-rehearsed”. They are all abominations.

Object to the word “actress” for a female thespian, if ye must. Yet beware that ye are on a slippery slope here. For sooner or later, ye may be like the man who revieweth The Crown, Season 4, and in the interests of consistency, praiseth the performance of the actor playing Prince Diana.

But worry not about the supposed ban on ending sentences with prepositions. That is a tiresome myth, spread in ancient days by the false prophet John Dryden. Verily it hath been the cause of many abominations ever since, up with which sensible editors will not put.

Finally, confuse ye not the words “piece” with “peace”. A piece does not “come dropping slow”, usually (unless it be a piece of journalism and your deadline was an hour ago – chief sub).

Whereas “peace” is something that, if only to annoy the Drydenites, you may now go in.