Friday, October 01, 2004

A huge problem -- I mean, really big, massive

Bill Walsh has decided that "massive" has turned into a massive cliche. Why?
I'm not going to hit you with a geeky copy-editor rule that says "massive" means only "having great mass." It can also mean "larger or greater than normal," "large and imposing or impressive" or "of considerable magnitude," according to Webster's New World.

My problem is that the word has become a cliche. Writers seldom opt for "huge" or "extensive" or any other word when "massive" is an option, and, as when any quirky fashion choice becomes the standard (see mid-1970s ties and lapels), it looks silly.
And, as with many cliches, there is probably a more descriptive adjective to use.

From a Capital Idea entry last year:
"Massive" is being used to describe
* Things that are really bad (massive hurricane clean-up).
* Things that are widespread (massive job cuts).
* Things that are really big (a massive lead over Team X).
* Things that are severe (massive injuries).
* Things that are wonderful (massive compliment).
Fight the urge, and be exact!

These examples should make your head hurt. And all should make your fingers fly -- as you delete "massive" or, if necessary, type in a precise adjective that actually tells readers something.
As usual, Bill's explanation is more elegant than mine, but the sentiment is the same. Watch out for this word.


Post a Comment

<< Home