Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Everything from soup to nuts

I've been encountering a lot of ranges lately. Not the kind you cook with or the kind where the deer and the antelope play -- I mean a range used in writing. This is a device used often but not, in my mind, often correctly, or effectively.

For example, a piece I read recently about a website that tracks the use and misuse of media buzzwords said this: The list so far covers everything from "submissive" to "austerity."

When you say "everything from  ..." you should follow it with a true range, something with a clear beginning and end: Everything from A to Z.  The above example gives me no idea what everything in between "submissive" and "austerity" would be, because those are not the end points of any range I can think of.

Here's another example: The physical activities undertaken covered all levels, from walking to military fitness. Now this one I can consider a true range. Walking is generally considered a low level of physical activity, while military fitness is definitely at the high end. So I can visualize everything in between, perhaps jogging, then running, then sprinting, etc.

So be careful with your "everything from ..." statements. If it's not a true range, recast the sentence. And if it's diversity of content that you're trying to highlight, you can recast to something like this: The list covers such varied words as "submissive" and "austerity."

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