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Avenge and Revenge

When you want payback, are you after revenge or do you mean to avenge someone?

Avenge and vengeance have to do with justice, and often with a legal process—although an individual can take justice upon himself:

  • I want to see their deaths avenged.
  • He went to prison for avenging an attack on his wife.

The word avenge, though, may not have anything to do with justice but only with evening a score. Payback.

Revenge, in contrast, means to inflict suffering or harm on another out of personal resentment. Revenge is all about getting even. Payback, yes, but not specifically justice. A person can mete out revenge on someone who doesn’t deserve it. And keep in mind, avenge, doesn’t imply the infliction of harm.

Revenge can be either a noun or a verb, but avenge cannot be used as a noun.

If you want to avenge a wrong without going to jail, you may want to take legal action and not seek revenge.

All Is Well When All Are Accounted For

The word all, as a subject, may take either a singular or plural verb. It depends on the context. Just as with nouns like audience (“the audience is listening”), context determines the choice of verb.

When implying a plural noun, use a plural verb:

  • All were running down the road, frantic, as the tornado gained on them.
  • I notice all are present for the vote today.

When implying a singular noun, which might be called a collective abstraction or mass noun, use the singular verb:

  • All is well on the home front.
  • All I want is peace on earth.

Writers often mistakenly use the plural when intending a collective all. These are incorrect:

  • All we need are the results from the election [should be is].
  • All they wanted were food and clothing to get through the harsh winter [should be was].

I hope all that I’d hoped to impart to you is clear. Then all will be well with your world.

Double Your Adverbs, Double the Trouble

Just as there are uncomparable adjectives (such as perfect or infinite) that cannot take a modifier, there are adverbs that shouldn’t have the suffix “ly” added to them.

We usually picture adverbs as ending in ly, so it’s common at times for writers to think those two little letters are always needed. But they’re not.

Some of those words are doubtless, thus, seldom, as well as the words first, second, third, and last. Yes, some of these words with “ly” tacked on are in the dictionary, but those letters are superfluous and, according to Bryan Gardner, “reveal an ignorance of idiom.”

See how unnecessary those two letters are:

  • She doubtless meant to come home on time.
  • First, open the door. Second, peek inside.
  • Thus, no one has to know.
  • He seldom has to lie.

Why clutter your sentences with extra letters that aren’t needed? Do you think saying “Firstly, she doubtlessly meant to open the door. Thusly, she seldomly needs to knock first” has a nice euphony to it?

I think not. Thus, doubtless, I am seldom wrong.