In this recurring feature, we’re sharing tips for editors from the desk of Douglas Gibson. Good for those starting out or old hands who need a reminder, these reminders form an engaging guide for sharp-eyed wordsmiths.
Any time an editor sees the word “literally,” sirens should sound and red lights begin to flash. For “literally” is used wrongly most of the time, by most people. “I literally died of embarrassment” is not an extreme example. Every month you will read, and hear, dozens of such mistaken uses, serving to deprive the world of a useful word that says, “And I really mean this, it is the factual truth.” Dozens of examples. Literally.