Any Old World

Writers lacking confidence in their mastery of a subject too often use any as a hedge. They throw in the word to needlessly broaden nouns, as if to say, “If the word I’m using isn’t exactly correct, I am protecting myself by inserting any.” I would argue that this use of any doesn’t protect an inexact writer, and that it results in shaky, flabby copy. In the following examples, the sentence would do just fine without the word:

  • Only about 30 percent reported any chest discomfort.
  • This serves to illustrate your financial diversity to any lenders who may need to review your credit history.
  • When you’re thinking about any student loan consolidation, ask potential lenders about any available discounts.
  • Any discrepancies such as extra accounts or incorrectly reported late payments would negatively affect your credit score.
  • Use the online form to dispute any incorrect information in your Experian credit report.
  • This is useful for establishing a track record and identifying any potential conflicts of interest.
  • If a REIT passes along 90 percent of its profits to investors, it is not required to pay any corporate income tax.
  • If you buy a policy before fully understanding which type you have, you may not be eligible for any benefit payments.
7 Responses to “Any Old World”
  1. Pat says:

    That’s just any being any.

  2. mike says:

    Gaines…Pat just dropped some major pwnage on you…on your blog. In your house!

    “hed”ache, gaines? you’ll hear two decks, the first hitting you, the second you hitting the floor.


  3. G says:

    The “any,” in “any discrepancies” is one of the most semantically necessary ever. Were it my credit score being discussed, I would very much appreciate that “any.”

    Also, isn’t this site about usage, not style?

    • cbgaines says:

      G: Not a bad point.

      As for the site, it’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that.

    • BartE says:

      In the realm of legally binding language, “any” might be used to close off any exceptions. And that precision might be useful. But most of the rest of the time, we just like how “any” imparts the whiff of legality, without having to bother with the rigor. Technical terms have been similarly hijacked.

  4. Pat says:

    Despite my hilarious comment above, I appreciate this post. I hadn’t realized how superfluous “any” is in so many instances.

    That said, I think it could be justified in some of the above cases for the purposes of emphatic effect. If a doctor asked me, “Have you had ANY chest pain?” I might be more inclined to mention some minor chest pain than I would be if he asked “Have you had chest pain?”

    Shit, I don’t know. Language sure is interesting.

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