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Sixty years after Fowler first complained about it, ASSIST still haunts the halls of government, academia, philanthropy, and everyplace else where good is supposedly done. Evidently afraid of patronizing their beneficiaries with mere “help,” charities are irritatingly prone to offer ASSISTANCE at every turn.

“Training modules are designed to assist programs and trainers reach the least job-ready.” “This grant will assist the organization to plan a comprehensive response to mental illness and homelessness in the targeted areas.”

In both cases, the excessively dainty reliance on ASSIST led the writer into an ungainly or even ungrammatical expression (the first example, stripped even of the modestly correct “to,” is especially unforgivable). The clear meaning was “help.” ASSIST was pure frippery. Yet it would be hard to find a more common example of posturing anywhere in the human services.


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