Professional Style


March 2008
Spot the Error

The grassroots committee bombarded its congressional representatives via letters, phone calls, and e-mails demanding that the controversial bill be defeated.

The definition of via is by way of (in a geographical sense). An example of correct usage would be:

From Kansas City, they flew to Disney World in Orlando, Florida via Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Flying north to go south—go figure.

In the opening “grassroots” sentence, via is used incorrectly. Via means by way of NOT by means of. Yes, yes, the dictionary will try to tell you otherwise, but the discriminating writer (that’s you) knows the difference. So, if there’s no geography involved, drop via and try using by (or, in the example above, try with).

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