35 Comments

Use WITH Caution Or Not At All


SoundEagle in Use WITH Caution Or Not At All

No, Thank You

If you could permanently ban a word from general usage, which one would it be? Why?

As a preposition, with is supposed to be a simple, ‘innocent’ word functioning in similar ways to those of other prepositions such as ‘in’, ‘at’, ‘over’, ‘under’, ‘toward’ and ‘before':

Having purchased a pizza with his own money, Charlie Brown departed with Snoopy who picked a fight with Woodstock earlier.

The first with signifies “as an instrument; by means of”; the second denotes “in the company of; alongside; along side of; close to; near to”; and the third means “against”.

This particular W word, like many other much abused four-letter words, has been strained, stretched and wranggled excessively in its usage. Anyone contemplating starting a sentence with the W word is staring down the barrel of an unruly gun prone to firing ungrammatical projectiles. For those who wish to be clear, logical and expressive, it is a word fraught with danger, especially to the unwary.

The following examples demonstrate the various types of error in contemporary usage of with. Corresponding corrections are provided as brown texts framed by light blue borders.

To begin with, with is often misused with the present participle to express causal connection or temporal relationship:

With Charlie Brown’s watch showing five o’clock, Snoopy signals Woodstock to leave.

Now that Charlie Brown’s watch is showing five o’clock, Snoopy signals Woodstock to leave.

With the rain barely stopping after a heavy pour, Woodstock flies impatiently out of the window.

The rain barely stopping after a heavy pour, Woodstock flies impatiently out of the window.
Barely has the rain stopped after a heavy pour, Woodstock flies impatiently out of the window.

On numerous occasions, with has been clumsily conscripted alongside the present participle to explain or elaborate what has already been stated:

Charlie Brown’s watch is showing five o’clock, with even Snoopy signalling Woodstock to leave.

Charlie Brown’s watch is showing five o’clock, even Snoopy signalling Woodstock to leave.
Since Charlie Brown’s watch is showing five o’clock, even Snoopy is signalling Woodstock to leave.
In view of the fact that it (or the time) is five o’clock by (or according to) Charlie Brown’s watch, even Snoopy is signalling Woodstock to leave.
Now (or Given or Considering) that the time on Charlie Brown’s watch is five o’clock, even Snoopy is signalling Woodstock to leave.

The rain barely stops after a heavy pour, with Woodstock flying impatiently out of the window.

The rain barely stops after a heavy pour, Woodstock flying impatiently out of the window.
The rain barely stops after a heavy pour, and Woodstock flies impatiently out of the window.

Exceeding the scope of a simple preposition, with is frequently conflated with the past participle to explain or elaborate what has already been stated:

With Charlie Brown’s watch shown to be passing five o’clock, Snoopy is signalling Woodstock to leave.

In view of the time on Charlie Brown’s watch (being shown to be) passing five o’clock, Snoopy is signalling Woodstock to leave.
Now (or Given or Considering) that the time on Charlie Brown’s watch is (or has) past five o’clock, Snoopy is signalling Woodstock to leave.

With the rain barely stopped after a heavy pour, Woodstock flies impatiently out of the window.

Though the rain barely stops after a heavy pour, Woodstock flies impatiently out of the window.
Though the rain has barely stopped after a heavy pour, Woodstock flies impatiently out of the window.
The rain barely stopping after a heavy pour, Woodstock flies impatiently out of the window.

Even in the absence of the present or past participle, with has been tenaciously forced into hard labour, thus usurping more natural and exact constructions:

With scarcely enough time to continue, both Charlie Brown and Snoopy signal Woodstock to leave.

When there is scarcely enough time to continue, both Charlie Brown and Snoopy signal Woodstock to leave.

With the cessation of rain after a heavy pour, Woodstock flies impatiently out of the window.

Upon (or Following) the cessation of rain after a heavy pour, Woodstock flies impatiently out of the window.

Beware of misusing or overusing With. “Bad” English is not necessary or always one where the usage is different, informal or colloquial; it is, and can be, anything that reduces the quality, comprehensibility, clarity, logic and/or expressive strength of a manuscript.

Proper or Preferable

Improper or Less Preferable

Since (or As or Now that) the living standard of those people has been improved significantly by the advent of electricity, they begin to seek out better amenities and more sophisticated entertainments.

Those people begin to seek out better amenities and more sophisticated entertainments since their living standard has been improved significantly by the advent of electricity.

The living standard of those people has been improved significantly by the advent of electricity. As a result, they begin to seek out better amenities and more sophisticated entertainments.

With the living standard of those people being improved significantly by the advent of electricity, they begin to seek out better amenities and more sophisticated entertainments.

With significant improvement in the living standard of those people since the advent of electricity, they begin to seek out better amenities and more sophisticated entertainments.

Those people begin to seek out better amenities and more sophisticated entertainments, with their living standard being improved significantly by the advent of electricity.

Those people begin to seek out better amenities and more sophisticated entertainments, (with) their living standard having been improved significantly by the advent of electricity.

Since reading outside the house is no more difficult than it is inside, and since she enjoys Nature, she is increasingly fond of reading aloud in the courtyard. She has a particular liking for the works of Shakespeare. As usual she strolls to the courtyard this morning. Already waiting at a secluded spot, her brother feigns not to pay any attention to her wont but intends to annoy her in one or more clever ways, for he derives his satisfaction from playing an ingenious prank. He will only be satisfied when an impish, roguish act is done. Having successfully accomplished yet another “mission” at his sister’s expense, he promptly retreats indoors to relive and savour the moments that he had just experienced outdoors, moments freshly engineered for his own amusement. Increasingly confident, he resolves to realise such a plan at least twice a week, should this be within his power.

{zero occurrence of “with” and 150 words in total}

Use WITH Caution Or Not At All

With reading outside the house being no more difficult than inside, she is increasingly fond of reading aloud in the courtyard with a particular liking for the works of Shakespeare. As usual with her, she strolls to the courtyard this morning. As with her brother who is already waiting at a secluded spot, he pays no attention to her wont, but with an intention to annoy her with one or more devious ways. Satisfaction to him will only be achieved with an ingenious prank. He will only be satisfied with committing an impish, devilish act. With yet another “mission” being completed successfully at his sister’s expense, he promptly retreats indoors with the sole purpose of reliving and enjoying in his mind the favourite times of what happens outside earlier, which he has recently engineered for his own amusement. With his confidence increasing, he resolves himself to make this happens with a frequency of at least twice a week, by hook or by crook.

{12 occurrences of “with” and 163 words in total}

Visit SoundEagle’s Writing Guidelines for more information.

Submitted as a response to Daily Prompt: No, Thank You.

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35 comments on “Use WITH Caution Or Not At All

  1. Reblogged this on Northern California Freelance Writers and Bloggers Group and commented:
    If I could ban a word from permanent usage forever it would be the word “cunt” (sorry, you asked). Cunt is a repulsive, disgusting word.

  2. The one that drives me absolutely insane is “ya know?” Over and over again. Some people cannot speak a single sentence without the phrase. Ya know

  3. I HATE when people respond to “Hoe are you?” WITH the word good instead of well. Good refers to morality; well refers to health.

    • Let’s wish that those who respond to “How are you?” with “I’m good.” have not been so devastatingly ignorant or diabolically innocent as to be so bold as to imply or implicate that our grammatically supple and logically sound response with “I’m fine.” is ridiculously bad or hopelessly outmoded in comparison! Perhaps some of those people are wallowing in the modernist legacy of seeing things in strict duality (such as good versus bad, and black versus white) in their usual utterance such as “I’m good.” and “You did good/bad.”, even as we concede that adverbs have been left out of their vocabulary, both linguistically and ‘morally’.

      In any case, SoundEagle hopes that the SoundEagle’s Writing Guidelines has been of good use to you.

      • I read your grammer rant with a wide grin on my face. Well said! I just skimmed your guidelines but after realizing the perils of the word WITH, I think I will STUDY them

      • Your STUDYing them will definitely be both an honour and a pleasure to SoundEagle. Thank you in anticipation for your patronage and feedback, Melanie.
      • Is it not somewhat ironic or farcical that SoundEagle has had to be so devastatingly (if not needlessly) adept at creating examples of ‘bad’ English usage, which is severely threatening and overwhelming what is left of the good in the media and even the academia?
      • Rather than throw your hands up in defeat you are “fighting the good fight”.

        African Proverb:
        “If you think that you are too small to make a difference, you have not spent the night with a mosquito.”

      • SoundEagle declares herewith that in the long run, hopefully, we won’t have to withhold or withdraw from our forthright grammatical stance, let alone throwing our hands (or wings) up in defeat and crying “If we can’t beat them then join them!”, as we continue to withstand the everyday onslaughts of “withaddicts” and “withmongers” without fearing utter defeat and constant setback caused by irreversible linguistic contamination, semantic degeneration or syntactical conversion.

        Thank you, Melanie, for quoting the African proverb here. Some authorities contend that mosquitos are the most dangerous animals on Earth, as they have been responsible for countless human deaths and diseases since time immemorial.

      • I am not only smiling, I am barely holding in gales of laughter at your unique linguistic ability; it is amusing, witty and extremley lovable

      • Dear mosquitos from the family of nematocerid flies, the Culicidae,

        SoundEagle commands herewith that you change from a diehard disease vector to a born-again zoonosis agent capable of sucking, stinging, curing and inoculating those human beings who are “withaddicts” and “withmongers”. It will be easy to identify them as their bloods have the olfactory remnants, auditory ripples and lingo-chemical signatures of lisping, obligatory preposition.

        Now, depart in swamps and bite them in droves. Mosquitos disobeying SoundEagle‘s command will be marked for extermination by bats of the order Chiroptera.

    • Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

      MARK TWAIN

  4. With trepidation, I go forthwith to weigh in on this. If I could banish a word it would be “whatever” every one seems to use whatever with or without any concern to how it is embossed into the walls of our memories as by who and when we were affronted with it.
    I could have done this response without “with” but with it, it was far more fun.

    • Indeed! You have chosen a good word with which to pick issue here. The word “whatever” also often leaves one the disconcerting sense of being shown the indifference, rejection, defiance, denunciation, flippancy and/or perfunctoriness of the speaker.

      Thank you for your visit, participation and comment, eightdecades.

  5. […] Use WITH Caution Or Not At All (soundeagle.wordpress.com) […]

  6. Reblogged this on Vivir, que no es poco and commented:
    A very useful post to write better

  7. Thank you for this post. English is not my first language and I learned a lot about how to use the word “with”. The study of two text with and without the word is so clear! So again, thank you.

  8. I know it’s an accepted word in our language now but I hate “gotten” – it’s lazy and boring and I grind my teeth every time I read or hear it….

    • Your poor enamel! It is therefore deserving that “gotten” should rhyme so perfectly with “rotten” ― there is no pun intended here, for it is not to imply tooth decay, but to signify the teeth-grating, jaw-gnawing punchiness of your word-cum-dental nemesis, a foul foe with a truly possessive nature and hate-inducing quality.
  9. Hi SoundEagle, thanks for your tips about the inappropriate use of “with”—they are really useful. As discussed, in my view a couple of your examples might sound more natural/correct like this:

    Yours: “In view of Charlie Brown’s watch shown to be passing five o’clock…”
    My suggestion: “In view of the fact that it was past five o’clock by / according to CB’s watch…”

    or this one—

    Yours: “Though the rain barely stops after a heavy pour, Woodstock flies impatiently out of the window.”
    My suggestion: “Though the rain has barely stopped after a heavy pour, W flies impatiently out of the window.”

    Which do you prefer?

    • They are all acceptable corrections. Thank you, SeaTurtle, for your suggestions, which are now incorporated into the examples. SoundEagle usually provides one or more alternatives as corrections or proper solutions.
  10. And the relationship between the two clauses in this sentence is unclear, it doesn’t make sense: “The rain barely stops after a heavy pour, Woodstock flying impatiently out of the window.”

    What do you think?

    • The irony of the ungainly deployment of the word “with” in the sentence “The rain barely stops after a heavy pour, with Woodstock flying impatiently out of the window.” is that the preposition could and should have been entirely omitted, thus forming a satisfactory absolute participle construction.

      Whether “with” is present or not, the relationship of the two clauses is quite clearly established by the order in which the clauses appear, and is further enhanced by the two adverbs “barely” and “impatiently”, as is the case of “The rain barely stopping after a heavy pour, Woodstock flies impatiently out of the window.”

      Alternatively, a conjuction can be used. As the correction “The rain barely stops after a heavy pour, and Woodstock flies impatiently out of the window.” illustrates, the awkward practice of using “with” to add information whilst avoiding the natural conjuction “and” is quite common.

  11. Oh, and words for “parts of the body” and “bodily functions” (no matter what they are) don’t bother me at all, whether they describe the parts or what they are used for. The same set of sounds (vowels and consonants) could mean another thing altogether in different language anyway!!! As a result, all words for female genitals (whether scientific, colloquial or slang) are fine by me, as are words for anyone’s genitals for that matter. What’s the big deal?

    Our “feelings” about words are a result of the associations that we make because of our mindset and experiences (and it’s not the word’s fault!)

    • Hi SeaTurtle, your comment here should have been a reply to norcalfreelancewritersbloggerscomment here.

      It should of course make good sense that the word is not to be blamed; if something had to be blamed then let it be the user(s) of the word. Moreover, it is not so much what the sound of a particular word that stands for something can be or may change from one language, region or (sub)culture to the next, as what meaning(s) it can convey or may encompass within one language, region or (sub)culture. As far as SoundEagle can ascertain from that comment, norcalfreelancewritersbloggers is disgusted or annoyed by certain denotations and/or connotations of the C word. Given the brevity of the comment, it is uncertain as to whether there are any overtly sexist, derogatory, censorious and/or sanctimonious overtones. In any case, it is understandable that peoples in various cultures and societies often have strong reactions or taboos against certain words (especially as/in expletives and invectives) according to, or as a result of, their social morays and cultural values as well as media influences, outlooks, proprieties and etiquettes.

  12. Jolly well said. I do like a bit of pugilistic passion concerning the pitfalls of language. When I was a teacher (I retired eighteen months ago – thank God!), I used to rant on a regular basis about such matters. To no avail, I hasten to add. It was like banging my cranium against the wall of a large dunny.
    In response to comments on the word ‘cunt’, it has become part of the whole giggle-wriggly, tittering taboo, sex is dirty, genitals dirtier way of thinking, hasn’t it? As a word, it is just a collection of letters and a sound, but we have invested it – as only we can – with such layers of repulsive meaning that it has become almost a linguistic AntiChrist in its own right.
    A more enlightened look at sex, language and language relating to sex would, I feel, be of benefit to our society as a whole.
    Banish the naughty, sinful connotations – and let words alone; let them breathe and be themselves!
    Alienora

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