Exclude the Includer

I’ll continue my series on small and often unnecessary words with a look at all. Writers will insert this word to signal to readers that every item listed is inclusive, but this is unnecessary when the context of the sentence makes the inclusiveness apparent. In the following sentences, we can delete all and still easily understand that none of the items listed would be excluded from their intended action:

  • Revenue, expenses, profit and retained earnings are all looked at when creating a budget.
  • Prepared in a frying pan, the dish features mushrooms, cheese, and arugula all rolled into fluffy eggs.
  • Then letters of congratulations are sent to all the listed dentists.
  • My specialists have all gone beyond the call in helping me provide my patients with truly excellent coordinated patient care.
11 Responses to “Exclude the Includer”
  1. Mary Lewis says:

    Absolutely! Thanks Craig.

    On a related note, I would add the word “include.” If the list that follows includes everything, then “include” is unnecessary. “Include” means that something has been left out.

  2. Pat says:

    Dammit, Craig. You’ve scored once again. I want to try to poke holes in this one — you know, for the sake of debate and because I’m an ass — but I can’t. I briefly considered arguing that without “all” in the breakfast one, a person might think that only the arugula would be rolled into the fluffy eggs. But that would be a hell of a stretch. On a side note, did you notice that I used “dammit,” “ass” and “hell” all in one comment. It’s a mild expletive trifecta!

  3. BartE says:

    What Pat said: there’s got to be a hole in this rule somewhere. This is really annoying, Craig.

  4. Erik says:

    The obvious exception to this rule is that you can’t take the “all” out of “Y’all have fun now!”

  5. Mary Lewis says:

    Craig, I’ve never thought about it that way. The regional variation does make sense. Many of the people in West Virginia say ‘you’all.’ This calls for an informal survey on Facebook.

  6. livermoron says:

    I think Pat had the right answer and then lost it. The breakfast example requires the ‘all’ to be precise and unambiguous. What if the arugala (what is its price today?) was supposed to be folded into the eggs separately?
    I fear that we are treading perilously close to the ‘serial and’ controversy.

    • Pat says:

      Yeah, you’re right. The more I think about it, the more I think that particular “all” is required to avoid ambiguity. Also, while I love arugula and cheese, I don’t like mushrooms. Can we substitute roasted peppers or something for those?

  7. livermoron says:

    Pat: If you roast the peppers, please remove the skins. I’ll take the mushrooms you rejected.
    There is a bigger problem with this recipe beyond the use of all: How do you “roll” something into fluffy eggs? To my ear it should instruct us to “fold” into fluffy eggs.

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