Last night, one of the network newscasters called the presidential race “nail-bitingly close for both candidates.” Hmm. So if the race is close for one of them, doesn’t it stand to reason that the race is about the same for the other?
The moral of the story? Watch out for the word “both.” It is often redundant and even nonsensical, as in a news item I recently spotted about a jail sentence: “Both terms will be served consecutively,” the article reported. No, let’s make that “The terms will be served consecutively.”
So is the word “both” useless? Not at all. It’s great for emphasis. For example, if we usually send just one representative to our company’s national meeting, we might inform the staff that we have decided “to send both Barry and Terri.” Or we could comment that we found a movie “both suspenseful and whimsical.”
This week’s 60-second tip: “Both” is a valuable word, but we’re wise to store it in a drawer marked “Handle with care.”