There’s always something to howl about

“Appliance” is not a verb!

As a purveyor of Real Estate Search Engines that function best when they have text to work with, and as a guy who holds both a journalism degree and the English language in high regard, I often find myself wincing in pain when I read the descriptions that end up on Property Detail pages.

Lately, I have noticed two new “words” creeping into the bastard child of English that is the Real Estate lexicon: “applianced” and “fireplaced”.

Both of these nouns that have been horribly mutated into past-tense verbs are often accompanied by that harbinger of terrible writing, the adverb, as in “fully applianced” and “newly fireplaced”.

What the Hell does “fully applianced”” mean? If the dishwasher has been stolen out of a REO, does that make it “partly applianced”? If a foreclosure still has the pipes in the walls, is it “fully coppered”?

Not to get all Andy Rooney on you, but at a time when people are questioning both the need for and general quality of Real Estate professionals, you aren’t helping yourselves when your most potent marketing tool — the description of a listing you publish on the Web — sounds like it was written as a late homework assignment in the back seat of the short bus on the way to reform school.

Now I know that many people regard grammar books with the same level of enthusiasm normally reserved for a root canal, but there is one grammar book out there that makes the subject as painless as a nitrous-induced laughing fit. It is called The Elements of Style, also known as “Strunk and White” for the two men responsible for the original version.

William Strunk, who was EB White’s English professor at Cornell, wrote the original “little book” in the 1940’s. It was called the “little book” because the grammar part is just 14 pages, and it is written as a series of easy-to-remember commands, like “Omit Needless Words”.

(To which, if I were writing the Real Estate Description Edition, I would add “Don’t make shit up.”)

EB White was asked to update his old professor’s grammar book, and he added a section on style. If all you know of EB White is Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, then you may not be aware that, as a regular contributor to the New Yorker,¬† EB White wrote some amazing non-fiction. EB White offering pointers on style is like getting batting tips from Babe Ruth.

So please, for the love of God, do me and your potential buyers a favor: Before we start seeing listings described as “fully floored” or “partially cabineted” get an updated¬† copy of The Elements of Style and put it to good use.

If you follow the simple rules and pick up a tip or two on style, you will end up with longer, better descriptions because you will be writing in fully formed sentences. Its better for readers, its better for search engines and, I swear, its painless.

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