We’ve seen some violent weather this year. Here’s a sentence I saw in a headline on the Weather Channel last month:
Large, battering waves will enhance the storm surge.
I have two quibbles about this sentence.
First, I don’t like that comma between large and battering. If you’re a stickler about usage, the comma is correct. (Often – although not always – it’s correct to put a comma between two adjectives: large, battering). But I think the sentence would be more dramatic without it.
Second, I wouldn’t have used enhance. It’s a positive word, and there’s nothing positive about a storm surge that puts lives and property at risk. I would have used increase.
It’s important to pay attention to the way words and sentences feel. I have another example (also related to weather). Our local weather reports used to be hosted by a man who struggled with two basic words in the English language.
The first was “milder,” which he thought was a synonym for “warmer.” So we would be told that the temperature was going to be “milder” tomorrow because it was going from 88 to 91.
Another habit (this one really drove me crazy, and I wrote him a letter about it – to no avail) had to do with the word “threat.” He thought it was a synonym for chance. And so – again and again – during a horrifyingly long drought we would hear that there was a “threat of rain this weekend.”
The real threat was what I wanted to do to him every time I heard one of those weather reports. Don’t follow his example, please!