Nov 29

Phrases that should be abolished: “Proceeded to”

I’ve never kept secret my hatred for my journalism school. The college is woefully behind the times, and has been scrambling to play catch-up to the digital media revolution for all 4.5 years I’ve been here. Further, the Daily Nebraskan is a terrible newspaper. Most of its reporters write the way all crappy college journalists write, with that awful tone that signifies a writer’s desire to sound more linguistically adept than he or she really is.

Case in point: The paper is routinely littered with the phrase ‘proceeded to’ and iterations thereof.

‘He proceeded in opening the windows and turning a fan.’ (link)
‘…a liberal activist in Kentucky was pulled to the ground by a Rand Paul supporter, who then proceeded to stomp on her head.’ (link)
‘He proceeded to throw five interceptions.’ (link)
‘…Marlborough took a pass from sophomore Jordan Jackson and proceeded to find Goetzmann streaking toward the goal.’ (link)

Why do reporters write this way? More importantly: What kind of copy editor keeps letting this meaningless set of words make its way into the paper?  The first example above is what inspired me to rant. ‘He opened the windows and turned on a fan.’ Period.

What”s odd to me is that, for all their faults, journo teachers here DO teach us to cut out empty words like that. How strange, then, that the newspaper staff – the public face of the school! – writes so poorly.

Am I the only one who quits reading a story when the writer proceeds to use ‘proceeded to’?

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  1. Shane

    There are a few times when it’s actually useful, especially when sequence is important. These times are few and far between though.
    It’s especially bad on the high school level; this post did nothing to increase my confidence.

    1. Minda Haas

      I don’t imagine that it’s appropriate/useful in any of the examples above. Sorry to trample on your hopes for the future of writing!

  2. Charles

    That’s a phrase that we should be able to laugh away.

    And Yuniesky Betancourt, having fielded the grounder, proceeded to throw the ball to Billy Butler.

    Let’s give our sentences air and print. I see bad writing all the time as a software engineer, but I don’t expect it in journalists.

    When I am writing I think of Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language.”

  3. Charles

    For the list – all words ending in “tative.” I see preventative and exploitative in writing all the time. Aren’t the words preventive and exploitive?

    The word hardly is another. I hardly ever see it used correctly.

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