I’ll admit right from the start that my age is against me when commenting on the way some people now speak, particularly those younger than me, but some modern expressions are really beginning to make me twitch.

Another confession early into this diatribe is that I make a living writing. Not from all manner of deeply considered critique of the world’s greatest authors, living and dead, but as a workmanlike teller of stories, deliverer of messages, thoughts and comments on behalf of our clients.

It is our role to engage our clients audience with articles, blogs, copy, tweets and posts, we hope will convey the nature of our clients’ skills and offerings, whilst influencing prospects to become buyers. All of which is not perhaps as simple as I make it sound.

The writing serves a purpose and may not always be technically or creatively something we would offer up for criticism and comment from the much-respected professors of English at our most esteemed seats of learning. Nor indeed an A-level English teacher at the local comprehensive.

The audience defines the message and the style

But we know our clients well and we understand the audience as well, if not better than they do, which defines our writing and the terms we use.

At times we will have to switch the persona and tone of our writing from formal delivery of legal concepts for one of our law firm clients to more approachable copy for a less technical audience; but that’s our skill, more than the ability to follow the rules of writing, such as they are.

We have a simple house rule, which considers the outcome, not the quality of the English, the sentence construction, whether we’ve split infinitives or ended sentences with prepositions, what matters is whether the message is clear. Will the reader know what we mean and learn from it?

It was bad enough to hear a colleague say ‘LOL’ the other day, rather than actually laugh out loud, but the trend currently causing me upset, is the word ‘super’ when applied as a modifier to adjectives, for example, super-excited or super-small – both of which I have seen used recently.

Having first surfaced a few years ago, the problem is getting worse and now hardly an evening goes by without some witless presenter on television or radio telling us how ‘super-interesting’ the documentary is, or how their latest recipe is ‘super-delicious’. Stop it. Please.

Variety is the spice of life and writing

English is one of the greatest languages on earth and we have more words available to us than almost any other speaker, yet now it appears lack of education and imagination is stifling modern language.

Speech continues to be littered with unwanted modifiers, rather than better alternatives, largely I believe because people are now too lazy to read, learn and understand that better single words exist for almost every situation when they decide to precede an adjective with the word ‘super’.

My personal suggestions would include:

  • Super-excited* = thrilled or ecstatic
  • Super-sad = disconsolate or mournful
  • Super-serious = solemn or grim
  • Super-tired = exhausted or fatigued
  • Super-stressed = anxious or frazzled
  • Super-emotional = impassioned or hysterical
  • Super-careful = cautious or circumspect

There will be more and I’m sure I do not need to explain that I believe ‘proper’, used as a synonym for ‘good’, will no doubt grow in popularity and cause me upset also.

Until that happens, we will try and keep our writing simple, easy to understand and hopefully engaging for the intended audience, whilst leaving the truly creative fiction to the great authors, who not only write for a living, but enlighten all our lives.

*Please note the hyphen is important. The adjective ‘superexcited’ is already in use in the worlds of physics and chemistry, meaning ‘of or pertaining to an excitation level with an extremely high level of excess energy, usually equivalent to at least 10 eV per molecule greater than the first potential of ionization.’