In America, the political season is fast descending on our daily routine. The news programs are replete with candidates posturing, posing, and preening. Listed below are some of the vacant phrases we may hear in the coming months. Here's hoping that some of those running for office would heed Mark Twain's advice about keeping quiet instead of speaking.
Cannot help but. This expression is a confusion of two others, namely, can but and cannot help.
- I can but try. (Better: I can only try.)
- I cannot help feeling sorry for her opponent. (Not: cannot help but feel.)
- I feel bad (not badly) about the speech I just gave.
- But: He was hurt badly.
- I want to ensure (make certain) that nothing can go wrong tomorrow.
- I want to insure (protect it against loss) this sailboat, the Monkey Business, for $50,000.
- I want to assure you (give you confidence) that nothing will go wrong.
- More important, we need to establish a credible platform very quickly. (What is more important.)
- The incident was treated more importantly than it deserved. (In a more important manner.)
Note: It is quite common to see "More importantly" as a sentence starter or as a phrase starter. Though purists say to avoid it, 50 percent of the American Heritage Dictionary's usage panel sanctions it.
Like - as, as if. Like is correctly used as a preposition. Although like is also widely used as a conjunction in colloquial speech, use as, as if, or a similar expression in written material.
- We need to find more voters like you.
- Kate, like her predecessor, will have to keep her constituents employed, um, er, happy.
- As (NOT Like) I told you earlier, I will keep all my promises.
- It looks like victory.
- It looks as if (NOT like) he will win.
- George looks like his father.
- George looks as (NOT like) his father did at the same age. BETTER: George looks the way his father did at the same age.
- As we home in on election day, we need to hone our message so that even five-year-olds will know what we mean.