Grammatical Bugaboos #1

“In The Process Of…”

I hate this phrase with a passion generally saved for whatever team opposed mine in the NCAA March Madness Tournament. Especially if that team beat mine (am torn about announcing the rabidity of my fandom for a specific college team since many people love ‘em and many people hate ‘em, and that’s not really my point here).

Anyway, back to my original point. Saying that one is “in the process of” something makes me crazy.

When I hear this come out of someone’s mouth, it’s like hearing nails on a chalkboard with the clanging of a cracked bell, the screeching of brakes being applied unexpectedly, and the howling and yowling of an angry cat fighting with a loud dog all at the same time and my brain cringes.

You’re not “in the process of” applying for benefits. You’ve either turned in an application or you haven’t.

You’re not “in the process of” getting your GED. You’re either getting your GED or you’re not.

You’re not “in the process of” signing up for counseling. You’ve either signed up or you haven’t.

Even more amazing these days…. “I’m in the process of applying for a job.” No. You’re not. You’ve applied or you haven’t. You’ve checked the want ads or you haven’t. You’ve had an interview or you haven’t (or you’ve scheduled one or you haven’t.) If you want to be more inclusive of all of your efforts, then the correct phrase would be “I’m looking for a job.” This sentence is also a question, asking the listener to suggest any leads that they have, which qualifies as a current activity…you’re having a conversation with someone that tells them you’re looking and that you’re open to leads. It’s networking (part of the job search efforts), which happens even when the conversation is about something else. “I’m in the process of looking for a job,” however, makes it sound like you’re searching invisible want ads while you’re talking. This doesn’t exactly help one look for a job; it makes them sound like they are hallucinating.

Let’s not even talk about the people who will tell you that they are “in the process of” getting pregnant. I keep wanting to tell them that unless they are engaging in sex right in front of me, they’re not really “in the process” of getting pregnant at the time that they tell me that they are “in the process of” doing so. There’s a part of me, however, that doesn’t want to make this comment for fear that they would take it as a suggestion…there are just some people that you don’t want to watch do this…and some places where it would be REALLY inappropriate. And no offense, but would you seriously tell someone that you were “in the process” of this in the midst of, well, the process? I’d think it would be fairly self-explanatory to anyone as to what you were, ahem, doing, without telling someone what you were “in the process of” doing.

And that’s true of anything they’re “in the process of”. Unless I’ve interrupted the GED class, or you’re actually filling out the application as we speak, you’re not “in the process of” doing anything.

Why does this phrase drive me nuts? Well, it’s probably a result of the number of hearings I’ve sat through where people want to put a good light on anything positive that they can. That’s not cynical on my part…it’s true that people in court want to make themselves look as good as possible, and it doesn’t matter what kind of a hearing it is, (I’ve heard this phrase in juvenile court, in custody hearings, in foreclosure hearings, in criminal cases, in civil matters, and even in traffic cases), people want their efforts to sound as good as possible. And those efforts might be genuine. They might really be trying all of the things they claim to be “in the process of” doing. They’re just not doing them at the time that they’re claiming to be “in the process of” doing them; they’re in court at the time.

Also, it doesn’t sound genuine. It sounds like someone puffing up a resume to get a job they’re not qualified for. And it’s grammatically incorrect.

Big pet peeve here.

In other words, let’s just strike it from our vocabulary. Unless you’re actually in the midst of the “process” at the time you’re using the phrase, it’s wrong.

Now, I’m not trying to start a fight. I’m not trying to be the grammar Nazi here. I am, however, going to post a few phrases, sentence structures, and other things that make me crazy as a listener and as a reader.

Do you have any phrases, words, sentence structures, or other communication quirks that make you crazy? Share them here.


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