‘Via’ and ‘with’ make the Grammar Nazi’s shit list

In my current source of employment, I often have to apply my immense knowledge of grammar and style (not!) to reviewing other people’s work. Amazingly, most of the time they don’t hate me for doing this.

This gives me an opportunity (and audience) to rant about trends in modern English communication that piss me off. And lately, two words in particular have made my shit list:

1. Via

In recent years it has become popular in Australia to say, for instance, “I received the documents via email”. This is a habit we appear to have picked up from our American cousins, who never use a simple word when an ostentatious one can be utilised. (For instance, a person we call an anaesthetist, they call an anaesthesiologist, which is longer and fancier sounding, and also stupid; the doctor in question does not study the science of pain relief, he or she gives you pain killers).

Anyone who has visited Italy will realise that ‘via’ comes from the Latin word for ‘road’. In English, the OED defines it as:

1 travelling through (a place) en route to a destination. 2 by way of; through. 3 by means of.

If you substitute definitions 1 or 2 of ‘via’ into the sentence “I received the documents via email”, it makes no sense at all. And why would you say “I received the documents by means of email”, when you could just as easily say “I received the documents by email”? This way you save a whole letter and avoid sounding pretentious. I call that a win-win.

2. With

I have noticed it’s quite popular to construct sentences in the form of “With [some sort of trend happening], [some consequence of this trend can be observed].”

It is hard to put in words exactly what is wrong with structuring sentences this way, aside from a personal dislike. This construction is overused and often leads to overlong, overly complicated sentences. Also it is a weak way of showing causation; I always prefer to say “[Something is happening] as a result of/because of/due to [some trend]”. But that’s just me.

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