HOME > Chowhound > Site Talk >


A Plea for Better Language - Try Harder!


Please, chounds, hear me -- I love this site and enjoy what we share here and offer a few words of my own now and then ... but ...

Let's call a moratorium on a few words. Specifically -- I dread reading the word "amazing" after seeing it hundreds of times. Is it part of the current vernacular? Fine ... it's also meaningless at this point. Please try another way to express your chow impressions, at least for a little while.

One other -- "You can't go wrong ..." Perhaps it's true? Maybe, but the phrase tells me nothing and it is used incessantly these days. Let's try something else, please.

Thanks --

  1. I agree, and would ask CHers to SPELL CHECK. The number of misspelled words, even in thread titles is appalling, and embarrassing.

    Posts that begin with "So, I " aggravate me no end.

    15 Replies
    1. re: Fleur

      Oh, my, you've seen "'So, I...'" that often? In my experience, most of the posters don't even bother to take the time to type the comma!

      Let's face it, the grammar on these boards has been pretty terrible as well...

      To go back to the original post, I agree-- there ought to be better ways to describe the food we're so eager to recommend/pan.

      1. re: PseudoNerd

        I have frequently been told that I am too pedantic, so I am very glad to read the preceding comments. At this point in our existence, I have almost abandoned hope for the correct use of the English language, and I agree that the communication skills displayed on this board (as well as on most blogs) are distressing, to say the least.

        When did "a lot" become one word? Why is it that virtually everyone under the age of 35 writes "alot" (sic) in place of the correct usage? Why do so many people (again, primarily those under the age of 35) seem to think that their posting should begin with the words, "So I"?

        I agree that the use of spell checking devices will help, but if someone does not know the difference between lose and loose, the difference between due and do, the difference between too and to, the difference between break and brake, etc., all of the spell checking in the world is of little help. It just seems that homonyms have become one of the major bugaboos of our online world, much to my dismay.

        Yes, I know that I tend to be overly pedantic, but as the old saying goes, "You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can't take the classroom out of the teacher".

        1. re: Ted in Central NJ

          Their, there, they're, Ted. You'll servive. Lot's of folk's never learned about homonyms or apostrophe's because it was considered a boar. Everyone has come to depend on internet word-proccesing tools. CH doesn't have spell check unless you are using certain softwear.

          From today's Sunday Herald:
          In the past four years, sales of English-language usage guides and dictionaries have plummeted by 40%, while other reference books, including maps, atlases and encyclopedias, have also shown a significant decline, according to research by Book Marketing Limited. Some publishers have even predicted that dictionary sales could cease completely.

          So if some body on Chowhound asks how to cook "muscle's," just sheik your head and ignore them.

            1. re: coll

              Don't you mean "That about somes it up?"

        1. re: Fleur

          Incorrect spelling of restaurant names in threads aggravates deficiencies in searching. Try this one from the Chicago Area Board: BRAND NEW AFGAN RESTAURANT http://www.chowhound.com/topics/434707 Poster was consistent in misspelling throughout.

          All too often people who are frequently amazed or who find many things awesome convey the impression that they really don't have much experience, knowledge and judgment. I tend to discount posts that use those terms unless the subject is something really far out in molecular gastronomy.

          1. re: Eldon Kreider

            If you see restaurant name misspellings that will interfere with searching, please bring them to our attention by using the "report" option on the post. Thanks!

            1. re: The Chowhound Team

              Chowhound Team: I find your "Report" function user-unfriendly. In order to report something, you have to check one of the three reason-options, and usually none of them is appropriate.

              1. re: Sharuf

                We realize that the current options don't cover all the possibilities, but if you flag something using one of the options - even if it doesn't cover the issue you are flagging - we will always look at the post and can usually figure out what the issue is. Of course, if you have time and are so inclined, it is helpful to us if you can include a brief note in the comment box as well.

            2. re: Eldon Kreider

              What about those people who don't have the time to use a thesaurus every time they write a quick review or post on CH or are just your average work-a-day schmo who has a passion for food but may have barely passed his or her GED exam and still want to share their experiences?

              It is important to remember that the postings on CH are free content on a user generated forum. People are not paid to tell us about their experiences at that quaint little spot on the west side. They do so because they want to, not because they have to.

              I am just thankful that this forum exists, whether the posters are rivaling Twain and Longfellow with their reviews or they are ditch-diggers who found the soup at the local Thai restaurant "amazing."

              1. re: Seth Chadwick

                God save us all from the thesaurus! Better the sincere poster writing in plain English whom we can easily forgive a few honest failings, than someone trying to impress with overblown prose filled with usage and spelling errors. There are some who try to write in "food critic" style but don't have the descriptive vocabulary or skill to do it however great their love of good food might be.
                It would be rude to comment about their writing within threads just as it would be to correct them in conversations. I doubt they realize their errors or would think them important - just as many on CH don't find the standard rules of etiquette important.

                1. re: MakingSense

                  I wish the LA Times food section used a thesaurus more... I swear I saw "luscious" in either the title or the first sentence of at least one article every week for several months in a row... drove me insane. On the other hand, see the "Worst Food Writing" thread on the Food Media and News board for examples of when thesaurus-using goes bad.

                  I like that most posts on CH are written plainly, as opposed, to, say, eGullet, which seems to be plagued by an excess of writerly ambition... I tried a few times to read posts there... each time, by the third paragraph, the voices in my head were screaming "what did you eat? and how did it taste?". Then I gave up. On the other hand, you have Yelp, where half of the posts are written in exaggerated pseudo-gangsta speak. I'll take a few redundant "amazings" any day... if they're from a reliable poster, they still carry weight.

                  1. re: daveena

                    As they said in "This is Spinal Tap" - "It's a fine line between clever and stupid."

                  2. re: MakingSense

                    I agree, this is a forum for discussing food in all its glory. If we'd take the time to check spelling or syntax we might lose some of the passion in our responses which is what brings us here in the first place.

            3. I disagree about "amazing" - it's the same thing as others using words like "wonderful," "fabulous" or one of my huge peeves: "it's a gem" It's all meaningless without further explanation, or of course if you know the person. But that goes with the cyber-territory. My personal pet peeve, especially on a site that purports to be all things to all foodies, is the word "best." There ain't no such thing in the realm of personal preference, which is basically all that food likes and dislikes boil down to one way or another. If there were such a thing as a "best" cake or "best" pot roast or a "best restaurant," we all waste a great deal of time and effort with all the different variations people constantly come up with (very often over and over and over again since there's only so much you can do with a given set of foods...)

              In short, I don't mean to be obnoxious, but "get over it." You must realize this post isn't going to have any effect (not affect, I hope you noticed!) on anyone's posting habits, right? ROFLMAO And as to posting conventions and courtesies, this post pretty obviously should have been made on the "site talk" forum, not this or even the "not about food" forum. It's about activity on this site only, nothing whatever to do with food even tangentially.

              1. I'm here to get tips on good chow, not to be an editor (I do enough of that in my real life). The writing level of writing on this site is miles above the average level of writing skills manifested on the Internet. As long as I can figure out what the heck posters are talking about, I don't care how they phrase it, as long as all the tips lead me to finds like the AMAZING ;-) lobster tail pastry I had last night due to a tip I read here.

                1. If forced to choose, I'd prefer reading misspelled, awkwardly-written chow tips from someone who knows his chow over beautifully written prose from someone who has nothing new to offer. I don't think you have to be an AMAZING writer to know your chow.


                  1. I agree with Chris and DQ. I participate on this board because I care about the substance of the posts, not the form. I'm looking to share information and tips here, not judge the quality of the writing. Mind you, I'm a stickler on grammar, spelling and punctuation in the professional press (I caught three typos in my local paper just this morning--for shame!), and I'm a big enough nerd to have read and enjoyed "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" (yes, that should be italicized instead of in quotes, but I haven't figured out how to italicize on this board).

                    To demand the writing on this board meet one's personal standards of "good" English usage (whatever that is) cuts against what makes it so special--the free-flowing exchange of ideas and information.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: laurie

                      I agree with the three of you that sharing information is more important here than stressing about whether a comma is used or not. I consider message boards more like conversation than writing a thesis. Having a list of "acceptable" and "unacceptable" descriptions would be "double-plus ungood.";-) I do find the level of writing much higher here than I've found on other boards (also keeping in mind that many chowhounds aren't primarily English speakers).

                      1. re: chowser

                        In complete agreement with the final posters here. Isn't this is a forum for people who like to share their thoughts about food and not a place to judge anyone's writing skills? This is a topic near and dear to my heart.

                        1. re: mvi

                          Yep, at CH the ipmrotacne of suond food rceommonadtinos far otuwegih the ipmoratnce of suond sepllnig. If tihs were Spel’n B dot com tehn the opopstie mgiht be ture. Aslo. I duobt taht sepllnig is hlaf as ipmoratnt in gteting an ieda acorss as mnay poeple tihnk it is.

                          At the same time, however, I wonder whether a natural spell checker has more self-control of their mind (sees rerality rather than what they think they see) and therefore might not be as esally fooled by taste / smell expectations based upon sight also? In-other-words, a better taste checker? Nah!

                          Waht if Pablo Picasso was a msater in the cluianry arts? You decide.

                          1. re: JeetJet

                            You post made my brain hurt. I'm a horrible speller, but I don't think it's affected my ability to see reality or control my mind. And why would a bad speller judge food visually rather than by taste? I don't think being a poor speller has anything to do with vision. However, I don't think you really meant it, so never mind...

                            (BTW, I'm a published author. Spelling and writing don't always go together. That's what editors are for.)

                            1. re: Glencora

                              Spelling does have a visual component. Words have shape that good spellers recognize and when letters are out of place the word appears to have the incorrect shape. One of the reasons why all-caps or some type faces are hard to read.
                              Spelling is a skill that can be taught just like cooking or training one's palate. It's attention to detail. Can someone truly say something tastes good if they wolfed it down? Sure but perhaps any old thing would taste good to that person because they don't pay much attention.
                              You claim to be a poor speller, yet your posts on CH are well written, logical and make sense. You're more aware of details and focused.

                              1. re: Glencora

                                “You post made my brain hurt.” [sec.]. I love it!. Sorry if I hurt your brain. Perhaps I was not clear (I was up at 1:00 am?).

                                I did NOT intend to imply that poor spellers (BTW, I am the world’s worst) might be more inclined to judge food based upon taste expectations and anticipations aroused by visual presentation and ambiance, rather than the actual taste experience. What I was saying (tongue-in-cheek) was that there might be a correlation between being able to easily READ misspelled words based on the power of suggestion (topic awareness and proper placement of the first and last letter of the word) and just as easily “tasting” what is suggested visually by presentation of the meal and the ambiance, rather than the actual flavor.

                                The reply by MakingSense mentions that people can be trained to pay more “attention to detail” when observing / sensing the presence of sight and taste stimulation. The senses of smell, touch and sound can be trained also. To a jury, “trained observers” (like police officers), if honest, make a more reliable witness than a non-trained "eye-witness." If there is a correlation, as I joked about, it might be related to the level of training. I think reading skills and eating enjoyment are more related to personality and the ability to zone-in on the prime purpose of the particular stimulation and observation and to ignore all other noise factors whether they be from sight, sound, taste, smell, or touch.

                                When reading about food on these boards I zone-in on the “gold in them thar hills” (as SauceSupreme said it below). Hence, when “panning for gems’ in the Chowhound river, I am not going to go on some wild goose chase looking to see whether the hills are alive with the sound of “Oxford commas, or whether the post is in passive voice, or whether there's a split infinitive or an improper use of a restrictive clause” (to use ipsedixit’s words below, what ever those words are about – Wow ipse).

                                In my post above I provided a link to my “Food as Art” post. What I am saying is explained and explored more in the thread that follows my OP. If you read the post there by Brian S., notice that he links to his own post on “Great (taste) expectations” which is a very interesting read on this topic and provided more thought for my Food as Art post.

                                1. re: JeetJet

                                  "You post." I can't stand it. I do proofread, usually! (And I think you mean sic not sec.) This proves that being rushed can result in sloppy posts. Two people were talking at me while I tried to write that. Your topic is interesting and I'm going to think about it...when I have some peace and quiet.

                                  1. re: Glencora

                                    "sec," This makes me sic. Please BARE with me -- I am not perfect. LOL.

                                    Check out Fleur's post above. The first reply to the OP in this thread, "aggravate me no end." [sic]. I wonder whether Fleur intended that, or maybe we should bare with Fleur as well? Maybe we would have a closer CH community if we could just all bare with each other sometimes. LOL

                                    It must be nice to be perfect -- who ever that is....

                      2. So I open this thread and go OMIGOD this is the most amazing topic--the best, hands down!!!

                        It drives me crazy when I read something like: " As a connasoir of fine restuarants...", but for the most part I enjoy the diversity of CH opinions, regardless of how they are expressed. The pedantic and pompous are just as irritating.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: whs

                          I much prefer the poor speller/grammarian to the pompous and the pedantic when it comes to reading about great chow.

                          (Hoping I didn't make any mistakes. (grin))

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            ChinoWayne would tell you, it's the chowtelligence that's important, ya know. When ChinoWayne describes a joint he does not lose his mind getting lost in loose grammar, ya know. You can't go wrong taking ChinoWayne's AMAZING chowadvice, ya know, especially when he sez "so, I" which is just a contraction of what he really means which "sows eye", a rare delicacy found only at certain mid-western raw food cults, ya know.

                            As ChinoWayne would assure you with prose such as "As a connasoir (sic) of fine restuarants, I can positively assure you that the most fabulous, over the top, blow out dinner that you can't go wrong on, would be the annual 'Takeru Kobayashi Invitational' held at the Chugwater, Wyoming Elks Club Spring Weenie Roast", you have gotta be sending in your nomination of ChinoWayne's erudite reporting to the Pulitzer committee, ya know.


                            1. re: ChinoWayne

                              We have somebody like you on the New England board--her recs are "amazing", but larded with descriptions of the "awesome" food. I would go anywhere she recommends, even if her grammer sucks.

                              1. re: ChinoWayne


                                ChinoWayne, if you recommend the Weenie Roast in Wyoming - I'm flying there asap!


                          2. I find personal criticisms of board posters to be more offensive than a lack of grammar or spelling skills or the use of words some readers are tired of seeing. Imho being unkind is far more embarrassing than honest mistakes or an "annoying" choice of words.
                            We may also want to remember that English is not the first language of all participants.
                            I suspect most of us are doing the best we can.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: xena

                              But still, chat from discerning "palettes" irk me...

                              1. re: xena

                                Bravo xena! For those big on grammar and small on community I respectively remind you to think about WE instead of I. Words that insult can be fancy or plain and JUST as insulting. A plea for better language? How about a request for better tolerance.

                              2. I would just chill.

                                This is CHOWhound, after all. Not Grammerhound or Dictionhound or languagehound.

                                We all come here for the diatribes about our favorite eats, not to critique and cringe over whether there should be an Oxford comma, or whether the post is in passive voice, or whether there's a split infinitive or an improper use of a restrictive clause.

                                If I read a post about a great, hidden Spanish joint in my neighborhood, even if the post begins with "You can't go wrong" and is littered with "amazing", all is forgiven if the food is, well, uh, amazing ...

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  There is obviously some degree of "chilling" occurring if we're discussing it here instead of commenting within threads - although some posters have made snide remarks about other poster's comments.

                                  Even though there are good tips on the boards, it does get tedious if the same words are used over and over and over again. Fourteen "amazing" restaurants in a row with "fabulous" this and "awesome "that," only broken by a question about whether one should be comped for slip in service?

                                  All of us have patterns of communication. Creative modes spark interest because people have given their own thought to them; others are copycat lazy - they use the same words and thoughts as everyone else. When there is too much of the latter, the conversation flatlines.
                                  Chain thoughts and words aren't much more exciting than chain restaurants.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    Chain words are irrelevant, deliciousness is where the excitment is. I'm happy to walk into a hole in the wall to try their food, just as I'm grateful for any information I get on the boards, regardless of the quality of writing.

                                2. I read & participate on CH for information. Different folks have differing modes of speech & varying degrees of detail orientation. People who fail to read through the entire thread before commenting seems to be the bigger problem IMHO. It leads to a tremendous amount of redundancy. But it also seems to indicate that a lot of us are just wanting to connect with like minded folks and are quite excited to have an opportunity to do so. With that spirit in mind it is easier to let most of it just slide.

                                  A look at the times when most posts are written would indicate many stolen moments at work, quick bits of time at the end of a long day or sleepy musings in the wee hours. None of these are particularly conducive (for me at least :) ) in creating stellar prose!

                                  1. Hey, it's bad enough that so many posters on chowhound have set themselves up as arbiters of taste regarding where we should be eatingt; I don't think we need anyone telling us how to use the language as well. If you don't like someone's style, don't read them.

                                    1. I read the boards just about every day. I can over look plenty of things, HOWEVER, when I see the word "VOILA" in any form, in any context, in any post, I want to scream. In fact, 9 times out of 10, I click entirely out of the site and go to another.

                                      3 Replies
                                        1. re: chelleyd01

                                          Shoot, I just joined this forum moments ago and used the term "voila." Thanks for making me feel like a loser.

                                          1. re: chelleyd01

                                            Pourquoi, parce qu'il manque l'accent grave?


                                          2. I'd like to think that, with the alarming frequency with which I peruse the boards, I've developed quite a keen filter to fight the ever-shrinking signal-to-noise ratio. While this is meant to exclude the maniacal rants of random posts, it's also meant to unearth the posts whose sincere enthusiasm, frankly, trumps whatever linguistic foibles may or may not exist.

                                            "There's gold in them thar hills," and often I feel like a prospector panning for gems on the message board.

                                            However, everything that the OP is suggesting will have the effect of merely alienating CH's more casual users. Let's face it: the chatty will continue to chat, and lurkers will continue to lurk. I am against anything that prohibits or stifles people from sharing their thoughts, because it's within that lush sense of community that CH's value truly shines. And I think it's important that the community embrace everyone from the excited home cook to the amateur critic to the gluttonous gourmand to the pickiest of diners. Homogeneity is the great enemy of social interaction. (That's why I love my actual neighborhood of Hollywood - where the velvet rope meets the ghetto.)

                                            And really, why blunt someone else's excitement merely because you disapprove of the manner with which they expressed it? Would you to discard a bottle of wine if you didn't like the label?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. I just re-read the original post, and wonder if what the OP is asking for is less hyberbole, not better vocabulary? If that's the case, I'd support it... I don't find hyperbole to be much of a problem on the SF board (as a group, I think we're pretty critical, so even positive reviews usually cite negatives as well, and I haven't noticed an excess of "amazings", so that when someone actually does say something's "amazing", it actually means something) but I could see how it could be frustrating if one review after another spouts superlatives.

                                              That said, I'd like to propose a purge (from the English language, not just from CH) of the phrase "party in my mouth" . <shudder>

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: daveena

                                                About as much chance as getting beets purged from all menus.....

                                                1. re: Gary Soup

                                                  Now why would you want to do that???

                                                  I tend to be a little obsessive about checking my posts, and I STILL make spelling mistakes. I wish the "edit" feature was always there, so that when you go back a month later and think "Did I really write that?" you can do something about it...

                                                  That being said, I have a really hard time with descriptive words. I probably use "delicious" way too much, and I may be guilty of using "amazing" too. Oh well, at least I chime in once in awhile. We want an inclusive community, and being too picky about grammar tends to drive people away.....

                                              2. Correct use of grammar, spelling and punctuation is helpful in communicating effectively to the most people. Descriptive words also help the reader visualize or comprehend the poster's experience in a way that is meaningful and useful as opposed to words like "amazing" or "best" which tend to be more subjective.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: WCchopper

                                                  ...or.."Say it like you eat it." - Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

                                                2. Don't let it bother you. One thread I read someplace on these boards analogized Chowhound to being like an old Country-style front porch where the hounds gather between meals. We sit and rock while shooting the bull about food. Informal, casual, laid-back – that’s life on the front porch. Now, I want to say more, I think you already knew all that.– because, as I read your words...it occurs to me that your style,....I am talking about your writing style... has a easy going tone – plain folk. All your pauses and sentence brakes shown as, “....” and “–“, ....Well, they come across as if... as if maybe you are – chewing on a piece of grass as you talk. I kinda like it... it fits in with rock’n on a porch. So, I kinda think things are not broken after all...

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: JeetJet

                                                    Don't think we're talking about different styles. CH would be really boring without those. Some are really funny and even the rather pompous ones can be instructive. There are posters from so many backgrounds and educational levels making this board very valuable. Most contribute good information.
                                                    The ones that seem to drive some of us nuts are the careless ones with ridiculous misspellings of ordinary words or such poor sentence structure that the posting makes little sense. Have the posters been drinking? Not rereading what they write before they hit the "post my reply" button?
                                                    Perhaps it's the fault of too much instant messaging where none of this counts...

                                                  2. While we're assembling a Chowhound Style Guide here, I'd like to make the following contributions.

                                                    We all know not to call it "Frisco", right? Call it SanFran, EssEff, The City, or even Baghdad by the Bay, but don't call it Frisco. I don't know where or why the aversion to that nickname started, but it's been in place for at least 60 years. Oh, and don't call it SFO. On the local board, that is limited to the airport and environs, and not to be used for any other part of the Bay Area.

                                                    Don't call it "Cali" -- Cali is a city in Colombia which has become a shooting gallery for drug lords. Call it CA, Cal, Calif, The Golden State, or even Left Coast, if you must (borderline acceptable and only to be used by East Coasters). "Cali" seems to be a new creation that's recently been popping up, and must be stamped out before it takes over and becomes entrenched!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Sharuf

                                                      " 'Cali' seems to be a new creation that's recently been popping up, and must be stamped out before it takes over and becomes entrenched!"

                                                      New? Depends on your definition of new, I guess.
                                                      "I'm going back to Cali, Cali, Cali"
                                                      L.L. Cool J, "Going Back to Cali", from "Walking Like a Panther", 1989

                                                      "I'm going, going, back, back to Cali, Cali"
                                                      Notorious B.I.G, "Going Back to Cali" from "Life After Death", 1997

                                                      Also, people get a little twitchy when you refer to SF as "San Fran", too.

                                                    2. This is chowhound.com, not perfectgrammarallthetime.com.

                                                      I come here to get "fantastic" and "interesting," not to mention "delicious," tips from fellow CHs, not to judge someone based on the number of typos they commit. Some make me chuckle, some make me go "oy," but seriously, what do you expect from a public forum? I know doctors and scientists and entrepreneurs who can't spell to save their lives, but to the extent that they are making positive contributions to society, that's the least of my concerns. I'm in 100% agreement with Making Sense's comments.

                                                      Please, CH, do not install spell check or, god forbid, a thesaurus function. On this board, nothing makes my eyes roll more than someone who is obviously trying too hard and critiquing a restaurant as if he/she was writing the next Great American Novel. Well, actually, there are other things that bug me more, but obviously not enough that I don't keep on coming back here.

                                                      1. Chowhound welcomes everyone who lives to eat--regardless of their language skills. Anything else would be limiting our search for deliciousness. Even if you don't like someone's writing style, please accept their tips in the generous spirit in which they're offered.

                                                        We've left this thread up as a place for people to discuss the issue, even though we always remove spelling, grammar and other language related comments from the boards, but we're now having to remove personal attacks and flames from this thread as well, so we're closing it.