Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Using Foreign Language Phrases

“Vice versa” and “et cetera” seem like innocuous phrases. In theory, they eliminate repetitive and wordy sentences while impressing your reader with your grasp of the dead language. Unfortunately, Latin phrases only make you sound smart if you use them correctly. When you misspell them or use the wrong phrase, your erudite piece reads more like a comedy sketch.

To the end of eliminating such embarrassing moments, I offer this fantastic resource—a page full of common Latin phrases and their meanings. Use them; know them; love them. Then concentrate on the page of French phrases. Ooh la la!

When you use phrases from another language, consider whether your target audience will know what they mean. When using longer phrases, make your meaning clear through context. Don’t translate the phrase in your sentence, however. Doing so restores the wordiness that you are trying to avoid by using the phrase in the first place.

Even if you use the phrase correctly, you will annoy unfamiliar readers more than you will impress them. While “par excellence” conveys superiority clearly, “sine qua non” tells your Latin-deficient reader nothing about your subject.




Wealth is not his that has it, but his who enjoys it.