Friday, January 11, 2013

-wise: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, January 11, 2013

In political and business jargon it is common to append “-wise” to nouns to create novel adverbs: “Revenue-wise, last quarter was a disaster.” Critics of language are united in objecting to this pattern, and it is often used in fiction to satirize less than eloquent speakers.


  1. Thanks for this post on "-wise".
    While saying a certain usage is incorrect (e.g. "-wise" here in "revenue-wise"), is there way to suggest what would have been the correct or better usage as well?
    If we are to eliminate "-wise", what are the other, easy to use, short ways that are available in place of long winded "when it comes to revenue" or "with regards to revenue" or "when we consider revenue" etc?

    Languages seem to evolve with dirty usage at times (e.g. "u" to say "you", "best" in emails to say "best wishes") mainly because people look for shortcuts or easy ways that using long winded sentences and not sure critics can stop that easily. This is the case with languages other than English too.

  2. Thank you for this. First, keep in mind that the post does not say it is incorrect to use "-wise," but rather that it is jargon to do so and some people ridicule such usage.

    As you point out, other options could be more long-winded (and ultimately only marginally better): "When it comes to revenue . . . " and "With regard to revenue. . . ."

    But there are other options. Why not recast the sentence to put "revenue" elsewhere: "Last quarter was a disaster for our revenue" or "Last quarter's revenue reports were a disaster"?

    Just remember that "-wise" is not grammatically incorrect and it may not feel awkward in every single case. If you do use it, keep in mind that it can hit a sour note.