Lee has a friend who once wrote a tribute to all the "great" people she had worked with over the years. Lee tried to tell her that quotation marks around "great" had a sort of "wink, wink, nudge, nudge ? they're all a bunch of hacks" implication. But Lee lost that battle.
All capital letters would have emphasized "great." So would underlining it. But the quotation marks definitely question these colleagues' greatness.
Steve Thompson has a beef as well. He's tired of hearing fancy-sounding words in place of simpler, more concise ones. For example,
"Many people," Steve writes, "especially news reporters and police officers, use 'multiple' when the simple word 'many' would suffice: 'multiple shots were fired'; 'multiple suspects are being sought'; 'he suffered multiple injuries'; 'there's been a collision involving multiple cars'; et cetera.
The overuse of that word irritates me every bit as much as the substitution of 'precipitation' for 'rain'!"
Steve has a point. Often this type of language is a clue that people aren't putting much thought into the words they're using. Indeed, sometimes they're just kind of rattling off official-sounding talk.
But, as I wrote back to Steve, I steer clear of telling cops how to do their jobs, except of course when they're standing by my car window scribbling on one of those little pads.
"Want to get really annoyed?" I asked Steve. "Consider this: A suspect is someone accused of a crime, not necessarily the person who did it. So think of all the times you've heard a police spokesman says something like, 'The suspect held up the store at gunpoint then fled on foot.' No, the robber did that. The assailant did that. The criminal did that. No suspicion about it. When they arrest a guy who they believe committed these acts, that's a suspect."
Raye A. Rhoads, who wrote to me recently, didn't offer any personal peeves. But Raye did have a really good question.