grammar, sh-mammar part 3

Okay, now I’m on a roll, so this planned two part series is growing. When will it end? Who knows.

This week, I’m tackling another pet peeve of mine: use of the word ‘literally’. Here’s a handy explanation from David Cross. (For those unfamiliar with his comical stylings, you’ll want headphone to listen to this if you’re around anyone who finds explicit language offensive.)

(You could also refer to this handy graphic from The Oatmeal.)

You should never use the word ‘literally’ unless you mean something actually, factually happened.

And honestly, even then you should use it only if it’s necessary. Because we often use the phrase ‘laugh out loud’ (or ‘lol’, as the kids say), you might have cause to write “He literally laughed out loud” to indicate you’re describing something that actually happened rather than using the term metaphorically or as popular culture has come to mean it. (Normally, ‘lol’ means little more than “I found this mildly amusing. Maybe.”)

However, rare are the occasions when it’s needed. So rare, in fact, that I’d encourage you to avoid it (in writing and in speech) altogether. More often than not, people say and write ‘literally’ to emphasize something when, in fact, there are far better ways to create the same effect.


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

4 Responses to grammar, sh-mammar part 3

  1. P. C. Zick says:

    I’m figuratively jumping and leaping with happiness and my heart metaphorically sings as I literally read your words. Thanks for the post!


  2. Ha ha and LOL. I am literally laughing out loud, at David Cross. No, really. What I am not doing literally is LMAO. 😉


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