Fighting the good fight on behalf grammar terrorists everywhere, that’s me. Although I’m more of a grammar hippy, really. Take the arrant nonsense that circulates around errant spellings, for example.
People moan about errant spellings: I ignore those complaints and offer tactful justification for those spellings whenever I can. As in, i’ll tactfully let my clients know there’s more than one version of a term. Some of the little lovelies appreciate this insight. Some don’t.
But as a human being [human thinking, human writing], I’d be uncomfortable if I didn’t do my job to the best of my ability. I know, there’s always a very wavy line drawn between ‘achieving what a client’s asked for’ on the one hand, and ‘achieving the client’s aims without letting them look silly’ on the other. But hey. I provide a service. Whether or not they use it – they pay for it (if you see what I mean. Don’t perceive arrogance: it’s just a fact).]
It’s true, language is descriptive and grammar is – arguably – sometimes too prescriptive. That said, I object to promoting ignorance through apathy. So, very carefully and with a teeny-weeny bit of tenuous apprehension, I champion the correct use of a lexicon whenever and wherever possible. Discreet versus discrete, for example. One [discreet] is an intentionally unobtrusive approach; the other [discrete] is a word used in mathematics, engineering and primarily computer-oriented science to denote distinct package of information, or a defined and finite set of values. Heaven praise the client who took that on board.
Oriented? OK. Oriented and orientated: both derived from the French verb ‘orienter’, and both terms infer turning towards a certain direction. But one [oriented] is present tense, while the other [orientated] is the past tense. Almost a complete waste of knowledge though, because orientate is used as the widely accepted form – whatever the time of day you are whizzing arond on your axis.
And complete? Different thing to compleat. One is quintessential: the embodiment of a perfect example. The other is the end of this entry.