Everyone has pet peeves – those irritating verbal tics and bromides that are the linguistic equivalent of fingernails scraping across a blackboard. The following sentences illustrate one of mine:

  • “While we might be a bit partial to the Lamborghinis, the Aston Martins and the Bugattis of the world, we’d be foolish not to openly admit our respect for the Mini.”
  • “Yeah, the quartet’s sound may be geared toward the arena-rock crowd, but these guys can write and produce a song that puts the Coldplays of the world to shame.”
  • “So yes, the Googles of the world might decide there’s sufficient ROI to do the R&D to get something like that in place for their own highly specialized needs, but….”

The expression of the world, commonly appended to various plural nouns, adds little or nothing to the meaning intended. It’s cliched, vague, and amateurish.

Even worse, it’s sometimes used to smear a person by gratuitously lumping him or her with anonymous others, as in this blog post: “The Ron Pauls of the world can espouse all they want about their ideal way of running free markets, no different than the Karl Marx version of socialism, but at the end, human nature will always have the last laugh.”

In many instances, this useless phrase can simply be deleted, as in the first bulleted example above. In other cases, a rewrite is in order. In the third example, “the Googles of the world” might be replaced by “search engine companies,” “high-tech behemoths,” or another phrase determined by the writer’s intent.

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]

Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant for more than 30 years. He may be best known for his headline “Speak Spanish [French, German, etc.] Like a Diplomat!” This familiar series of ads sold spectacular numbers of recorded foreign language lessons for Audio-Forum, generating revenues that total in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process, the ad achieved the status of an industry classic. Don’s work is mentioned in three major college advertising textbooks, and examples of his promotions are cited in the books Million Dollar Mailings (1992) and World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters (1996). In a column in Advertising Age, his name was included in a short list of direct-marketing “superstars.” He has a parallel career as a writer on language and wordplay. His celebration of spoonerisms, Cruel and Unusual Puns (Dell, 1991), received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing. His second book was Acronymania (Dell, 1993). Recently, Don retired from full-time copywriting in order to focus on other interests, including his passion for “recreational linguistics.” He is at work on a new book in that genre. He is a regular contributor to the magazine Word Ways and writes “The Language Perfectionist,” a weekly column on grammar and usage, for Early to Rise. Don is author of The Versatile Freelancer,an e-book from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) that shows copywriters – and almost anyone – how to diversify their careers into consulting, training, critiquing, and speaking.