NY Times Dictionary Application- Helps Writers “Tone Down” Their Prose

On the NY Times.com you can right click on any word and see a dictionary definition. Very user-friendly application.

Recently, NY Times Deputy News Editor, Philip Corbett, who is also in charge of maintaing the paper’s style guide- got a hold of the list of the top 50 words that readers had looked up per-article usage.

The list is funny, sui generis, solipsistic, louche, laconic and saturnine round out the top five. Corbett also released a memo to writers reminding them to BE GOOD WRITERS, and maybe not use apotheosis so damned much:

Remember, too, that striking and very specific words can become wan and devalued through overuse. Consider apotheosis, which we’ve somehow managed to use 18 times so far this year. It literally means “deification, transformation into a divinity.” An extended meaning is “a glorified ideal.” But in some of our uses it seems to suggest little more than “a pretty good example.”

Most recently, we’ve said critics view the Clinton health-care plan as “the apotheosis of liberal, out-of-control bureaucracy-building,” and we’ve described cut-off shorts as “that apotheosis of laissez-faire wear.”

So what do we say if someone really is transformed into a god? – Excerpt from Deputy News Editor, Philip Corbett’s memo, regarding the words most frequently looked up in a dictionary by NY Times readers.

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