(Page 2 of 2)
See? Much better.
Here’s another example that landed in the inbox back in October: “This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. As such, I thought the attached op-ed might be timely.” The person who wrote that pitch is a former state Cabinet official. As such, he ought to use “therefore,” wouldn’t you say?
After all, language should foster communication. Unfortunately, it often is used to prevent communication by obscuring truth. Here’s an example flagged by Derek Thompson, a sharp-eyed editor at The Atlantic, from a business news release in December:
“Citigroup today announced a series of repositioning actions that will further reduce expenses and improve efficiency across the company while maintaining Citi’s unique capabilities to serve clients, especially in the emerging markets. These actions will result in increased business efficiency, streamlined operations and an optimized consumer footprint across geographies.”
Thompson helpfully translates that into plain English: “Citigroup today announced [layoffs]. These actions will [save money].”
This brings up (or perhaps down) a final point, courtesy of Virginia lawmakers, who are debating when teachers may be involuntarily separated from employment through repositioning actions. The Code of Virginia states that a teacher “may be dismissed or placed on probation for incompetency.” Legislation before the General Assembly would stipulate that “for the purposes of this article, ‘incompetency’ may be construed to include … one or more unsatisfactory performance evaluations.”
Question: “incompetency”? What’s wrong with “incompetence”? Incompetence is a perfectly good—a perfectly cromulent!—word. And while “incompetency” embiggens the language, it does so to no good end. It does not provide a new word where one was needed, or convey a nuance otherwise left unutterable. All it does is look—and here one has to resort to the lexicographer’s argot, so pardon the technical mumbo-jumbo—stupid. What’s next: “incompetencyness”?
When it comes to the educatationary realm, the list of those eligible for getting canned for incompetency probably should start with anyone who uses that word.
Unless that sounds too judgy. If so, we’ll just have to think up something else. Or, you know, down.
This column originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.