Tag Archives: syntax

Comparatives and Superlatives

Comparatives are used to compare one thing to another- they often have an ‘er’ ending. Superlatives are used to compare more than two things- they often have an ‘est’ ending. So ‘Holmes is better than Watson’ (because there are only two of them) but ‘George is the best character in the Famous Five’ (because there are more than two of them).

A common error is using the superlative when there are only two things in contention: mt

‘Of the two methods, the oldest was better’ should be ‘Of the two, the older was better.’

Double comparisons are also not acceptable in standard English:

‘She was the most greatest’ should be ‘She was the greatest’.

‘She is more faster’ should be ‘She is faster.’

Additionally, I also see ’empty comparisons’, the use of a comparative without a base:

‘Today was better.’ Than what? It should be made obvious to the reader what you are comparing.

Also, superlatives are often over-used in writing. Unless used stylistically, exaggeration can become a barrier to how much the reader will understand and trust your statements. Think of the number of times advertisers use superlatives- do we really believe that their product is ‘the best’?

Not all multi-syllable adjectives take ‘er’ and ‘est’. This is where ‘more’ or ‘most’ is used before the adjective.

For example ‘The sofa was the most comfortable seat in the room’.

I hope that’s helped. Let me know what you think or if there’s anything else you’d like explained or discussed. As always,  I’d very much appreciate if you could share or like this if you found it useful! Thanks!

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Filed under Common Errors, Proofreading, Writing

Tautology

tautology

Essentially this means saying the same thing twice, also known as self-reinforcing statements. For example: ‘revert back’; ‘equally as good’; ‘an essential prerequisite’. If the repetition does not add to the meaning, this can seem clumsy. I often see variations of ‘very unique’. Unique is an absolute, thus the first word is redundant.

The same goes for ‘new innovation’, ‘added bonus’ and my least favourite of all, ‘she herself’.  There are some tautologies that are ubiquitous: ‘free gift’, for example.  The Oxford English dictionary defines ‘gift’ as ‘a thing given willingly to someone without payment.’ Thus ‘free’ is in the definition and so unnecessary.

Avoiding tautology will make your writing sharper and mark you out as the sort of writer that chooses their words carefully and constructs something accurate and original.

Have you noticed any tautologies lately? As always, I’d love to know what you think, and do please share if you found this useful!

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Filed under Common Errors, Proofreading