Monday, November 14, 2011

Poll results: "Awesome" is awesomely irritating

When Ragan wrote about the top ten intensifiers you should absolutely, positively avoid, we were inspired to ask our writers for their opinion. As the results from an informal poll of our Facebook network show, "awesome" is by far the most annoying adjective.

Alan Perlman, a writer in our network with a PhD in linguistics, had this to say about intensifiers: "Adjectives and intensifying adverbs both tend to weaken in meaning and are progressively replaced by stronger terms. Some people over-rely on 'really' or 'literally,' as if everything else is imaginary."

Other finalists for most annoying intensifier included "excellent," "incredible" and "cool." Writer James Buchanan made a convincing case for "interesting" and "interestingly" as well: "As I have learned, merely saying something is interesting does not make it so or do anything to denote why."

But author Kerry Zukus warns us about dismissing intensifiers out of hand, reminding us that "they are all fine for dialogue. Flesh-and-blood people use them in speech all the time, and I hate it when writers have Average Joes speaking as if they've just completed Finishing School."

Didn't get to vote in the poll, but want to add your two cents? Leave your nominations for worst intensifier in the comments.

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