'Suppose' is a word worth avoiding

'Suppose' is a word worth avoiding
Source: reusableart.com

During a recent conversation, my father and I discussed our irritation with the frequent use of the word suppose.

Suppose is an everyday conversation-filler, even on TV.

Dad wondered aloud about the word’s real definition, and that was my cue to go to my trusty Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary and look for it.

I found a transitive verb (“suppose A equals B”); an intransitive verb (“to formulate a supposition or opinion”); a noun (“a supposition; position without proof”); and an adjective, supposed (“regarded as true, genuine, etc., without actual knowledge” or “merely imagined”).

That’s three parts of speech. Versatile, eh?

Maybe it’s too versatile: The verb has four more definitions after “suppose A equals B,” and then it has a list of 17 synonyms, from “assume” and “regard” to “consider” and (least usefully) “presuppose.”

I’m not implying (another synonym) that we should ban suppose. I wouldn’t presume (yet another synonym) to do that.

But I imagine (still another synonym) that my vocabulary will be better without the over-used suppose.

Variety is not only more precise than lack of variety; it’s more beautiful — and more fun.

So I’m not going to expect or obligate  you (two more synonyms) — you’re not supposed to stop using it.

Just consider (one more synonym) avoiding “suppose” and replacing it with some of these synonyms. Will your vocabulary get better? I suppose so!

For more fun with words, stop by the Margaret Serious page on Facebook.

Suppose you try this: Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

Filed under: Words worth avoiding


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  • It's overworked and trite, one knows.

    But I'll still say it, I suppose.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Well, it is useful poetically -- it rhymes with many things better than many of the 17 synonyms.

  • In corporate speak, all former intransitive verbs have become transitive.

    Apparently, I suppose that one shouldn't overuse it.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks, Jack, but I try to fight "corporate speak" when I can.
    As for overusing "suppose," it was refreshing to get all of the synonyms out in its place (as marked above).

  • In our present society, I am inclined to think that use of a multi-syllable word like suppose is preferable to the other fillers known as "um", "ah", and "uh". The word does imply a bit of forethought in the response. Somebody actually had to make comparisons, create analogies, and generally find a frame of reference. Based upon my recent experiences with public education, few students are even being exposed to a thesaurus or encouraged to utilize a dictionary for fresh vocabulary. My daughter had asked my opinion on an essay, and I dutifully pointed out that she was using the same terminology over and over. Her paper might profit by finding some good synonyms to convey the same meanings. After taking our conversation to heart, she made the changes, and her paper was thoroughly trashed by an advanced English instructor who merely disliked the actual words. It had nothing to do with their meanings, nor were they used inappropriately in the context. The teacher simply didn't like the vocabulary choices. For example referring to the demise of a ruler as the flashpoint for infighting among the assorted heirs, she was encouraged to use three word sentences, most of which only contained single syllable words. Not a great incentive to explore the richness of our language or the spectrum of possibility.

  • Thanks, Sue. I agree, even "suppose" is preferable to constant "ahs" and "uhs."
    As for your daughter's experience, wow. I have trouble believing that the instructor (I hesitate to use "teacher") was at an advanced level himself, let alone teaching anyone to write. Sigh.

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