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A funny phrase

Written by Sherwin, published on March 29, 2010

I spend a good chunk of time writing. Often, the writing I’m doing is for other people. And there are a few devices I lean on a lot. One of these devices is conversational language. Ironically, it doesn’t come naturally to me. My academic training is forever edging me towards the cliff face of formal and arcane language. But I resist.

One phrase that often catches me up when I try to write it is this: “used to”.

In conversation, we say things like, “we used to have to walk to school ten miles,” or “it used to be that the sun shone more often”, “get used to it”, etc. It’s a past tense thing but it’s also a state of affairs thing. But whenever I look at it in print, I trip over it. It doesn’t read well to me. But maybe it’s just me?

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Archived comments

  1. Sarah says:

    I’m going to say “get was to it” all the time now.

  2. sherwin says:

    I used to be able to understand the things you say. :) Do you want to try that again?

  3. uncle george says:

    there was a time when the sun shone more brightly,
    there was a real dragon when I was young
    so get ….was to it!!!

  4. sherwin says:

    Thank you. It’s definitely gotten easier with practice.

  5. Lisa says:

    1) I’m super-surprised that you find conversational writing difficult. When I read your conversational writing, it comes off completely naturally. I literally hear your voice (and sometimes, SEE YOUR BODY LANGUAGE) while reading your stuff. It’s one of the reasons you are such a pleasure to read. Good job on faking that ease!
    2) “Used to” is an awkward phrase when written. I wouldn’t try too hard to work it in.