John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to jemcintyre@gmail.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Wasted words: Ongoing

In almost all contexts, it is clear when some action, effort, or program is continuing, which renders the word ongoing superfluous.

What I think it is intended to mean is that we are really, really, really trying to do this. But I expect that nearly all readers skim right over it without paying much heed.

That, incidentally, is why you should avoid cliches and stock phrases, not because they offend our fastidious aesthetic sensibilities (though they do), but because they have been worn so smooth through overuse that readers do not even register what they say.

11 comments:

  1. Overall I agree in general, in terms of going forward into the future.

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  2. I had to yell at the TV this morning because the first words I heard were "deadly massacre".

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  3. Is this part of your ongoing effort to remove superfluous words from our vocabulary?

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  4. I wholeheartedly agree about cliches. That definition is the reason I've been defending the "trite" definition of it for a long time and explaining to people that it's not because it's bad language, it's because it's bad language that's lost all it's meaning.

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  5. The effort? Mainly an attempt to keep people from wasting my time.

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  6. I read phrases such as "brutal slaying" and "safe haven" and I want to "flee on foot."

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  7. Last week I ran across "predicting future events" in a story I was editing. As opposed to predicting past events?

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  8. You're certainly laying out an ambitious agenda.

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  9. I hate "ongoing.” If it weren't going on (or ongoing) we wouldn't even mention it. I think it's become the new way to say "continuing” which is also often needless.

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  10. prior notice
    past experience (shows)
    unintelligible gibberish
    awkward dilemma
    general public
    consensus of opinion

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  11. The newest annoyance is "going forward."

    Going forward, the ongoing controversy could intensify. Going forward, the plan may need more votes.

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