Several readers have suggested a column on pet peeves about the misuse of language.

One reader wrote: “Saying ‘the reason why’ is redundant. For example, ‘The reason why the CEO left the company’ or ‘The reason for why no bonuses were paid this year.’ ”

In a word, drop the “why.” “Reason” embodies “why.”

My own pet peeves sometimes involve the spoken word; what we say and how we say it reflects on us as much as what we write.

An example: The now almost universal and annoying habit of starting the answer to any question with the word “So.” That use of “so” most often bears no relationship to the words that follow.

But it seems to be a way of gathering oneself before committing to a statement. An older way — one in our culture that has long gained acceptance — is to start an answer with the word “Well.”

These are stalling tactics, though less awkward than saying, “Um.”

Another peeve: A TV news reporter covering a political rally described the scene: “Hundreds of volunteers have kind of shown up to support the candidate.”

“Kind of” shown up? Did they actually show up? Or are they just lurking outside the arena?

This usage has become an affliction. It gets worse, when someone further qualifies an observation by saying, “The crime rate has kinda, sorta gone down this year.”

It either has, or it hasn’t. Just give us the data. Straight.

Why be concerned about these linguistic viruses? They undermine a speaker’s credibility.

Imagine making a presentation to a business group and sprinkling your speech with “kinda” and “sorta.” Those words would never appear on a PowerPoint slide.

They deserve to be banned from spoken communication.

Finally, this ultimate abomination: Littering a conversation with the word “like.” Example: “I was like, I’m not going.” Worst case? I once heard a college student say “like” 18 times in 30 seconds. Trust me. I was counting.

Do you have a pet peeve? Shoot it my way.


Twin Cities writing coach Gary Gilson, an Emmy Award winner in public television who has taught journalism at Colorado College, can be reached at