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Joseph N. Kirby

Mastering English Usage

Effective communication requires a mastery of English usage as well as proper grammar. Correcting common usage mistakes will improve readability in writing.
According to the master thesis writing service, one of the most common usage errors concerns the difference between the phrases “less than” or “greater than,” and “greater” and “fewer.” In a nutshell, the words “less” or “more” should be used with mass nouns, and “fewer” and “greater” should be used with count nouns. Count nouns refer to items which can be itemized individually.

Count Nouns Versus Mass Nouns
For such items, “fewer” and “greater” should be used. Therefore the familiar sign in the checkout line, “15 items or less,” should be amended to read “15 items or fewer.” When you write essays, mass nouns refer to items that are bundled together and can’t be counted individually. A piece of antique furniture may have “more” or “less” dust on it, the dust not being easily quantified in any practical sense of the term and thus qualifying as a mass noun.

Definition of Consensus
Another common mistake is the oft-repeated phrase “general consensus.” The word “consensus” means a “general body of opinion.” Speakers and essay writer for you use the word “consensus” when they wish to imply that there is agreement among experts, for example, on a particular issue. By definition, the word “consensus” suggests general agreement. Therefore the phrase “general consensus,” invoked so often in print and in public speaking, is redundant.

From the standpoint of the sheer rhythm of speech, understandably it sounds better to say “general consensus” than “consensus”; perhaps this explains the wide misuse of this phrase, but fundamentally “consensus” alone implies enough of what the speaker intends to say.

Imply Versus Infer
Speaking of implications, what is the difference between “imply” and “infer”? This is another example of the widespread error in English usage. To “imply” is to suggest something in a very indirect way; to “infer” is, conversely, to deduce what the speaker means to “imply.” Therefore it is the person making the suggestion who is implying, while the person making the deduction is inferring. It is never appropriate to say something to the effect, “The author here infers,” when the intent is to convey that the author is making a suggestion (unless, of course, the author is in fact making a deduction about something).

More English Usage Mistakes
Often when giving explanations a reader or speaker will use this next phrase: “The reason is because.” However, this phrase is redundant. The reason is that the word “because” implies “reason,” and therefore “The reason is because” is the same thing as saying, “The reason is that the reason is that.” Instead of saying, “The reason is because,” simply stating “The reason is that” will suffice.

If the reader has read this far, he or she may have been more or less interested in the subject of proper English usage. What if the reader is still “uninterested”—or “disinterested”? What’s the difference? Online paper writing service says, often these words are used interchangeably, but they mean two very different things. “Disinterested” is a word that means impartial. As an example, a judge is a “disinterested” arbiter in a dispute; he or she is neutral. “Uninterested,” however, means someone who doesn’t care about an issue at all.

Improving Your Writing
Admittedly, to some, these issues of proper English usage might seem a tad picayune. However, English is a very precise language with many shades of meaning. The better a reader or speaker can grasp these rules and use them, the more effective a communicator he or she will be.

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