English Usage Guides (1974, volume 7, 4)

Peter Gawn
(Terminology Update, Volume 7, Number 4, 1974, page 2)

At the editor’s suggestion, I have undertaken to prepare a series of guides to English usage. I shall discuss in my Guides points that appear to give trouble to those whose work I revise. I hope that others may find my remarks useful.

It is with some misgivings that I don the mantle of a dominie, particularly to teach English to those already familiar with it. Many books on usage have been published in the last ten years or so, however, and I shall see what they have to say on each topic: I shall then summarize the consensus of these authorities, give my opinion and suggest a fiche for readers to make for future reference. In this way I shall support my own judgements with that of others, thereby lending some weight to my recommendations.

I know that the editor will be pleased to receive your comments.

TOPIC: (Individual)

Individual, as a noun.

PROBLEM: (Individual)

Individual is not equivalent to person; it refers to the single members of a group as opposed to the group as a whole (CGSM, p. 22).

Incorrect Use:

This individual writes poor English.

Correct Use:

The individual often feels helpless in his dealings with society.

AUTHORITIES: (Individual)

The incorrect use is described as colloquial (Chambers), heavy and pretentious (DCE), vulgar (COD), chiefly a colloquial vulgarism or term of disparagement (OED) and a Vogue Word now past its vogue but lingering in its vogue sense as a nuisance (MEU).

Webster has no definition corresponding to the incorrect use, Mencken disparages it, with other newspaper words (p. 211).

Treble recommends that the word be thought of as an adjective: its use as a noun in contrast with general will then become clearer.

SUMMARY: (Individual)

The condemned use appears to be a hangover from Victorian social criticism and Edwardian humour. It is not an Americanism. Its current use by, inter alia, the CBC News Service does not offset the consensus of the authorities.


Do not use individual as a synonym for person.

* * *

TOPIC: (Consider)

Consider as …

Consider that …

PROBLEM: (Consider)

It is unidiomatic to use consider followed by as (except as noted below) or a that clause.

Incorrect Use:

He was considered as a good worker. He considered that he had done a good job.

Correct Use:

Omit as and that or replace consider by regard and believe.


Although consider is frequently seen followed by as, this usage is condemned as unidiomatic by all the authorities consulted (except of course in a sentence such as: The lecturer considered Eisenhower first as a soldier and second as administrator) (Strunk, p. 38).

The problem arises from confusing the construction with that used with regard. Vallins says "Regard welcomes the as that consider rejects" (p. 158) and MEU that "regard is now beginning to have its revenge" (p. 106).

The American Heritage Dictionary and Webster both agree with the foregoing.

The use of consider with a that clause is no longer modern idiom (OED). The that is superfluous.

The authorities also agree that consider is overworked and that it should be reserved for situations involving real mental activity or thinking over (Bernstein, p. 116). Synonyms such as regard, think, believe, feel or suppose should be used instead.

SUMMARY: (Consider)

The idiom is consider (noun) to be (noun), or consider followed by an object clause.

The verb to be is frequently omitted, but that, says Vallins, ’is no reason why as should take its place’ (p. 158).

Consider is in danger of losing its full meaning through overuse.


FICHE: (Consider)

Consider should not be followed by as or that. The construction is consider (noun) to be (noun), with to be often omitted.

Consider should only be used when there is deliberation. Otherwise, use regard, think, feel, believe, or suppose.


  • Bernstein: The Careful Writer, T.M. Bernstein, Atheneum NY, 1968.
  • CGSM: Style Manual for Writers and Editors, Queen’s Printer, 1962.
  • Chambers: Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary, Edinburgh, 1972.
  • COD: Concise Oxford Dictionary, OUP, 1969.
  • DCE: Dictionary of Canadian English, The Senior Dictionary, W.J. Gage Ltd, Toronto, 1967.
  • Mencken: The American Language, H.L. Mencken, Knopf, 1971 (Abridged).
  • MEU: A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, H.W. Fowler, Second Edition, OUP, 1965.
  • OED: Oxford English Dictionary.
  • Strunk: The Elements of Style, W. Strunk & E.B. White, Macmillan, 1972.
  • Treble: An ABC of English Usage, H.A. Treble & G.H. Vallins, OUP, 1965.
  • Vallins: Good English, G.H. Vallins, Pan, 1968.
  • Webster: Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, 1963.

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