Thursday, January 12, 2017

Rhetorical Choices That Bother Me

I'm only partly joking that this is the first in a series of rhetorical choices that bother me, but I leave myself open to the option that it may become a semi-regular feature on a blog that no one but my mother reads. (Hi, Mom!)

At the moment I'm reading One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment, which is generally well-written and quite interesting. The author, Mei Fong, examines the repercussions of the one-child rule; she intersperses her statistics and other data with stories. She writes well; however, I'm becoming frustrated because the author uses the word "some" before an exact number. I understand she means to indicate an approximation, but I take issue with that particular rhetorical choice. "Some" is inexact in a way that "approximately" is not. The the former is a measurement while the latter is imprecise buy close in quantity or amount.

If you "approximately 15," say so. If "some of the 15" do something, say that. Yes, I understand that language is fluid. And if writers were to write "some [number]," I'd shrug and move on, but it's like an over use of block quotes. One or two is fine; before many of the numbers being included is too much. As I tell my students: Vary your word choice! "Some [very specific number]" just bugs the hell out of me.

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