Sundry Misusages XI: Despite/In spite . . . plus more

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Despite/In spite of: Kindly take a critical look at the two statements (a) and (b) below. They illustrate the difficulties some writers experience in handling the preposition despite and the prepositional phrase in spite of. The difficulties relate to which of the two to use in specific instances. When not sure of which is the correct usage, they misfire as in the specimen errors below. (a)…The police reported that the security situation in the county was relatively calm despite of the shortage of manpower. (b). . .None of them saw the billboards too, despite that they had been there more than two weeks before the presidential order to dismantle them. In (a), our first observation is that there is no prepositional phrase as “despite of,” and it is, therefore, never to be used. Therefore, correct usage is in spite of, not despite of. For clarity, we re-cast, thus: The police reported that the security situation in the county was relatively calm in spite of the shortage of manpower; or alternatively: The police reported that the security situation in the county was relatively calm despite the shortage of manpower. You would observe that in the second re-cast, the preposition despite is correctly applied without the erroneous appendage (despite of) in the original error. Another observation is that the preposition despite and the prepositional phrase in spite of are always interchangeable, when correctly applied. The reason is, they both mean “without being affected by” (Oxford Dictionary of English/AmazonKindle). In view of the meaning of the preposition despite revealed above, it should be obvious that it has also been misused in statement (b). A better test is to try the phrase “without being affected by” in place of despite in the construction and see how unsuitable it is, as used. Hence, the suggested alternative prepositions or prepositional phrases as applied in: (i) None of them saw the billboards too, despite the fact that they had been there more than two weeks before the presidential order to dismantle them; (ii) None of them saw the billboards too, in spite of the fact that they had been there more than two weeks before the presidential order to dismantle them; and (iii) None of them saw the billboards too, even though they had been there more than two weeks before the presidential order to dismantle them. The take-away from the last alternative here is that when in doubt, discard and fish for something suitable that you are sure of, as in the use of even though in place of despite. One person and double titles: The challenge here is how to refer to a single person with two or more titles without giving a wrong impression that you are referring to two different persons. Editing experience shows that through a slight mishandling of syntax writers tend to have difficulties in executing such highly-nuanced expressions. We will make ourselves clearer with the mishandled example below: Participants included Adams Oshiomole, former Edo governor and the national chairman of the APC. The misusage in the above sentence is the article the, which precedes the second title, as it gives the wrong impression that the chairman is someone else other than Oshiomole, whereas his both former governor and chairman of the APC at least for all who know him so well. Writers commit this misusage because they pay little or no attention to subtleties like this. Let it be known, therefore, that correct usage outlaws the article the before the second title – as long as it refers to the same person as the first title. To make ourselves clear, state it as it should be, thus:Participants included Adams Oshiomole, former Edo governor and national chairman of the APC. Each other/One another: In malapropian fashion, writers often wrongly swap these two pronouns for each other. The issue is, they are not designed to deliver exactly the same messages, even as close as they are by their dictionary meaning. Consider the following usages: (a)…It is important for us as compatriots to understand each other well. (b)…Both of them have always regarded one another as a threat. Each other in (a) above is a misusage. Because compatriots are fellow countrymen, who naturally must be a large number of people, one another is the better usage, not each other. In reference to any large number of things also, one another is the correct usage. “Each other is used to refer to two entities only, such as two persons, two groups, two towns, two races, two forests, and the like.” (“Pop” Errors in English: Writers Beware). So, we should simply replace one another in (b) above with each other, as the error in (b) is just the flip side of the error in (a) Kindly note that each other and one another should not be used interchangeably – “even when both pronouns (each other and one another) mean nearly the same thing and are used respectively “to show that each member of a group does something to or for the other members” or “when you are saying that each member...

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