“Kind of (a)” and “sort of (a)”

The use of these expressions is inappropriate when they are used to mean “somewhat” or “in a sense” but appropriate when they are used to mean “an approximation of” or “characterized as.”

Right: Music can be a kind of tranquilizer.

Wrong: Music can be kind of a tranquilizer.

As a rule, if the noun following “kind of” or “sort of” is abstract, consider the “kind of” or “sort of” phrase singular—and don’t preface it with an article.

Examples: What kind of movie is it? That kind of movie leads to aggressive behavior.

“It is” and “this is/that is”

Using “it” as the subject of a sentence without the identity of “it” (the antecedent for “it”) being clear in a previous sentence (as in “It is often said that . . . .” or “It was decided that . . . .”) can be confusing.

When possible, replace “it” with an appropriate noun. Ask yourself: Who or what is “it”? Usually, you can determine the identity only from the sense of the whole passage.

Original: It is often said that editors are too picky.

Better: Many writers say that editors are too picky.

Starting a sentence with “This is” or “That is” is can be confusing. Does “this/that” refer to the preceding sentence’s subject, verb, the whole sentence, or the preceding four sentences? When possible and when needed, clarify the sentence.

Original: This is the crux of the problem.

Better: This ambiguity is the crux of the problem.

Gender-neutral language

See CMS 5.46 and 5.225 for advice on applying gender-neutral language.

What is gender-inclusive language and why is it important?

According to the Linguistic Society of America, “inclusive language acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, is sensitive to differences, and promotes equal opportunities.” Many style guides (including the Chicago Manual of Style) as well as academic institutions, such as Princeton University, have formalized policies around gender-inclusive language.

Because not all people fall under one of two categories for an individual’s biological sex or gender, it is best to edit the sentence to use plural pronouns (“they,” “their,” etc.) when possible. When singular pronouns cannot be avoided, alternate between male and female pronouns (in one example, use “he”; in the next example, use “she”).

Can “they” be used as a singular pronoun?

In English, there is no gender-neutral pronoun for a single person, but the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook recently permitted the singular use of “they” as a gender-neutral singular alternative. However, we strongly recommend avoiding this usage because it can create confusion for non-native English speakers.

What are some examples of gender inclusive language?

Gendered noun Gender-neutral noun
man person, individual, people
mankind people, human beings, humans, humanity, humankind
freshman first-year student
manmade machine-made, fabricated, manufactured, artificial
the common man the average person
chairman chair, chairperson, coordinator, head
congressman legislator, congressional representative
manpower workers, workforce, staff, labor, human resources
Gendered pronouns Gender-neutral pronouns
he, him, his/she, her, hers they, them, their

Source:Gender-Inclusive Language,” Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What’s an easy work-around for using “he or she” with “investor”?

To avoid “he or she,” change “investor” to “investors” (plural).

In the era of robo-advice, what about traditional headlines, such as “Man versus Machine”?

Consider rewriting the headline, even though AP Style holds that “man” may be used to connote both men and women. An alternate headline could be “Humans versus Machines.”

See also the Pronouns section.

“Employ” vs. “use” vs. “utilize”

For simple, clear technical writing, a good rule is to reserve “employ” for hiring situations and use simply “use.” Also, the simple “use” is preferred over “utilize” in most cases. In business and finance, a big exception is in discussions of capacity; the term “capacity utilization” is standard.

Example: The authors employed used regression analysis as a way to investigate capacity utilization.

“Correlate with” vs. “correspond to”

“Correlate” is correctly used with the preposition “with.” Correspond should be used with the preposition “to,” unless one intends the specific meaning of exchanging communications with someone—”corresponding with” someone.

Examples: The rise in gasoline prices correlates with the anticipation of increased road travel during the Labor Day holiday weekend.

The rise in the water level corresponds to the recent increase in rainfall.

Wilma has been corresponding with Fred by e-mail.

Comparisons

Unless the meaning is absolutely clear, avoid free-floating comparatives. If you use “more,” “better,” and so forth, complete the comparison; state what the item is “more than,” what it is “better than.”

Example: In the sentence “In 1992, pancakes cost more,” the meaning is not clear. It could mean that pancakes cost more in 1992 than they did in 1991, or it could be that pancakes cost more than waffles, if waffles have also been mentioned in the paragraph.