John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and random topics. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. The original site,, at, and now at

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.