Useless Adjective Thursday

Particular

I chose particular as this week’s useless adjective because I noticed that in my technical writing, I was using “particular,” “specific,” and “certain” where such words were arguably extraneous. For example, “You can open certain ports on particular servers.” I could just as effectively say, “You can open ports on your server.” Is the meaning the same? Maybe not; I meant that only some ports could be opened on some servers. But the context of the sentence should make that clear. If it doesn’t, I should work on the context.

After I selected this potentially useless adjective, the first blog post I read contained particular. I won’t link to it because I only read that (particular) blog to see how many people the author has offended today. She wrote, “I really enjoy this particular group of mothers.” At first, I thought particular was called for. But upon further thought, I think the sentence is fine without it: “I really enjoy this group of mothers.” With particular she may be trying to single out this group, to say that she likes them more than other groups of mothers. But she could go on to explain why this group appeals to her compared to another group, if that was her point. (And she does, actually.)

Am I being particularly picky about particular? Are there cases when it’s a useful adjective?

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One response to “Useless Adjective Thursday

  1. What is the difference between “particular”, “specific”, and “especial” (except that “especial” isn’t really grammatically-correct)? And would you care to tackle the nit-picky “individual” (as in, “I like each individual post.”)?