Since declaring myself a writer, people keep sending me blogs about words – mostly about words not to use, in either writing or speech. Actually, there is a good deal of overlap, but that’s not my point. Today.
What is my point? Well, I have more than one, but I think I’ll stick to what I was thinking about when I started this: I have yet to see “should” on those lists.
The Evilest of Words
The best way I know to shut down a conversation, or to have advice ignored, is to throw in the phrase, “you should.” I find so much judgment in that short combination of letters, that I frequently have a physical reaction.
Who is anyone to tell anyone else what he or she should do?
There are many relatives of “you should” that are as vile; however, “should” is the first one I identified to myself, so we won’t go down the rabbit hole of the family tree.
What does Should Really Mean?
Let’s ask my good friend dictionary.com about should:
1. simple past tense of shall.
2. (used to express condition): Were he to arrive, I should be pleased.
3. must; ought (used to indicate duty, propriety, or expediency): You should not do that.
4. would (used to make a statement less direct or blunt): I should think you would apologize.
And now, my rebuttal:
1) Who uses shall anymore?
2) What? I know that I can be pretty colloquial, but who says stuff like that?
3) EVIL! Duty, propriety, and expediency are for me to define for myself. If I want your opinion, I’ll ask.
4) People who know me would never accuse me of being “less direct or blunt.” In fact, when I try to beat around the bush, everyone tends to get lost. Also, at least in that example, it seems condescending – a mentality I loath as much as “should.”
The Fine Print
I do feel that “should” is a perfectly reasonable word when used in reference to the mechanical, digital, or otherwise inanimate. Items created for a specific task really should do that task:
- When I tested software, I used the word regularly.
- The roof should not leak.
- Microsoft products should … (no, let’s avoid that topic).
- My keys should be where I put them when I got home. (However, saying that my husband should be where I left him is evil.)
What on earth is wrong with, “I would do it this way”? Or, “I suggest”? I find possibilities encouraging while “should” is so restrictive.
I approach “What you could do” with caution. I try to keep that to settings where many people are making suggestions.