And the winners are …

Phase 2 of the OI! (Omit Needless Words, Include All Necessary Words) project has come to an end. In phase 1, Rachel Cristy collected phenomena under these headings (plus Redundancy/Pleonasm, a category often hard to distinguish from ONW) from a number of advice manuals and usage handbooks. These were sorted by source. In phase 2, Tim Moon added a few more sources, and then sorted the advice by phenomenon.

In the end, we went through 30 books, ranging from the scholarly (MWDEU) to the cranky (James Cochrane’s Between you and I: A little book of bad English), and including frequently-cited items like Fowler (the original Fowler, Gowers’s Fowler, and Burchfield’s Fowler) and Garner’s Modern American Usage. This is of course just a small sampling of the literature; I have hundreds of these volumes. And we relied almost entirely on sources that were arranged dictionary-style; most college handbooks are not arranged this way, but instead have sections on themes in grammar, style, and usage, and so are hard to process for the OI! project.

There are many other sources of advice, proscription, and prescription — for instance, the huge effusion of peeving in newspapers, on the web, and so on — but these are even harder to cope with.

Once Tim Moon had the advice sorted by phenomenon (rather than handbook), he went on to create an Excel sheet with the phenomena sorted by frequency.

And the winners (in number of sources) are:

for ONW: off (of) [15], cannot help but [14], [modified] unique [13], outside (of) [10], all (of) [9], comprised of [9], have got [9], as to [8], inside (of) [8], kind of a [8] (total number of items: 455)

for IANW: very (much) + PSP [12], as/so far as … [11], graduate (from) [11], as … as [9], human (being) [8), [omitted] that (8), [ellipsis in non-parallel combinations] [7], could (not) care less [6], couple (of) [6], [degree modifiers with of a] [6] (total number of items: 195)

for Redundancy: equally as [13], the reason is because [11], actual/true/real fact [9], from when/thence [9], the hoi polloi [9], each and every/all [8], free gift [6], refer back [7], whether or not [7] (total number of items: 465)

The numbers decline steadily, until (in all three categories) we get to enormous numbers of phenomena mentioned in only one source. There seems to be a lot of idiosyncratic complaint out there.

Plenty more to say about these things, but here’s a first pass.

4 Responses to “And the winners are …”

  1. May I truncate? « Arnold Zwicky’s Blog Says:

    […] of the OI! (Omit Needless Words/Include All Necessary Words) project — see some findings here — looks at “truncations”, in a broad sense: shorter constructions that are in […]

  2. Blame it on a word « Arnold Zwicky’s Blog Says:

    […] By arnoldzwicky Some of the items in the OI! Project lists — see the top items in the survey here — are initially puzzling. For instance, the top item in the IANW (Include All Necessary […]

  3. WOO: The War On Of « Arnold Zwicky’s Blog Says:

    […] he recommends against P + of, in particular off of and outside of, two combinations that are widely disparaged in the usage handbooks (some discussion of P + of […]

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    […] phenomenon comes up five times in the files of the Stanford OI! project. In chronological […]

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