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Old 09-12-2012, 05:47 PM
Jacob221 Jacob221 is offline
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Default good writing requires correct word usage-10

Good writing calls for correct word usage. I once had a teacher who compared words to fences. Just as fences define property lines or shape the size and content of pastures and meadows, so words give shape to our thoughts. If you speak or write using the wrong words, you misshape the thought you are trying to convey.
There is a troubling trend among writers to misuse common words and expressions. That usage abuse happens to everyone from article authors to bloggers to professional media people, both broadcast and print.
Common or 'standard' English usage is always changing. But in a recent turn for the worse, those changes seem to reflect either sloppy usage or just plain ignorance. Let me explain what I mean with a little word usage exercise.
Read the following sentence and ask yourself, what, if anything, is wrong with the sentence:
'If writing that article is going to take you more then two days, then perhaps it isn't worth all your effort.'
There definitely is one usage error in that sentence. I suspect it would have been a glaring error to a writer reading it more then 20 years ago, but I don't know how many of you 'youngsters' educated in the last 5-10 years got it. (Hint: I just did it again in that sentence.)
I hope you got it: Correct English usage would read 'more THAN,' not 'more THEN.' My lame followup error in the second sentence was 'more then 20 years ago,' but should have been 'more than 20 years ago.'
There is a very important reason 'more than' is correct and 'more then' is ALWAYS incorrect, and that has to do with English grammar. In the English language, [Only Registered users can see links . Click Here To Register...], there are words which are called 'conjunctions.' Conjunctions are words which join or unite other words and phrases. There are other words which are called 'adverbs.' Adverbs are words which usually modify verbs. By 'modify,' I mean describe, limit, clarify, or otherwise add meaning to verbs.
'Than' is a conjunction, usually used in phrases or language constructions of comparison. That's what we did above: 'more than 20 years ago' was a comparative phrase contrasting people educated two decades ago with people educated five or 10 years ago.
The word 'then' is NOT a conjunction. It is an adverb. Specifically, you could call 'then' an adverb of time. It always conveys the idea of time or sequence: 'We walked two blocks then turned left at the corner.' In that sentence, action took place in a sequence of time. First, we walked two blocks. After walking two blocks we 'then' turned left.
So why is this misusage so common? My best guess is that 'than' and 'then' are so similar in pronunciation that people simply are careless in their usage. Or perhaps they never learned the basics of English grammar and think they are doing it correctly.
You owe it to yourself and your potential readers to get it right if you want to write. Good writing isn't exactly rocket science. But good writing, including standard English grammar and word usage, demands that you make it your business to know these things.
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