In Your Writing, Know the Meaning of “Absolute”

This is part of a series by editor Barbara McNichol to provide tips for writing like a pro.

Ever heard someone say “his bucket is emptier (or more empty) than mine”?

How can something be emptier than empty?

The same holds true for all “absolute” words. In grammar, “absolute” means it can’t be compared. That is, you would never use “less” or “more” in front of these absolute words:

  • perfect
  • final
  • first/last
  • complete
  • universal
  • destroyed
  • invisible
  • dead
  • unique
  • total
  • impossible
  • pregnant
  • ultimate
  • fatal

Consider the word “destroyed.” If a hurricane sweeps through a small town, it’s tempting to say, “Our town was destroyed.” But be careful. Destroyed is an absolute that means totally, completely gone; it doesn’t exist anymore—no streets, no rubble, no fences standing. Chances are the more accurate word is “damage.” So watch out for absolutes, clarify their true meaning, and use them correctly.

Your challenge: What other absolute words can you add to this list? Write them down.

Today’s Word Tripper from Word Trippers Tips:

Testimony, testimonial – A “testimony” is a declaration or affirmation of fact, such as given before a court. A “testimonial” is a formal or written statement affirming a truth. “The strong testimony he gave in court could be regarded as a testimonial to her strong character.”

When you know how to write with precision, your professional reputation builds and your career can soar. Barbara McNichol is passionate about helping business professionals add power to their pen. To assist in this mission, she has created an annual subscription program called Word Trippers Tips. It features 52 Word Trippers of the Week, a webinar, crossword puzzle, writing tips, and the ebook Word Trippers: The Ultimate Source for Choosing the Right Word When It Really Matters. Details at www.WordTrippers.com/odi.

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