Shop this outfit. No, actually, please don’t.

March 5, 2014

Model with 'Shop this outfit' caption

Since when did ‘shop’ become a transitive verb?

There was a time when you ‘went shopping’, ‘did the shopping’ or ‘shopped for’ something. You didn’t shop anything – or anyone, unless you were some kind of criminal.

So I was surprised when I checked out Marks and Spencer’s nice new website recently to find several instructions to ‘Shop this outfit’. And it doesn’t stop there: there’s ‘Shop new arrivals’, ‘Shop more occasion outfits’ and ‘Shop our edit’ (how is that even a sentence?). In fact, it’s all over the shop (sorry).

And it’s not just Marks and Spencer copywriting. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m noticing this usage everywhere. Perhaps it’s one of those crimes against English invented by the fashion industry (see also ‘a trouser’). Do they think it sounds better? And if so, why?

My dictionary is very clear on the subject. Intransitive verb, often followed by ‘for’. (The only time it is transitive is with the secondary meaning: British slang for ‘inform on’.)

And taking the lead from David Marsh’s wise and entertaining grammar book For Who the Bell Tolls, I can also use a pop song to prove my point. It’s called Shoppin’ for Clothes. If it’s good enough for the Coasters…

January sales – retail crimes (against English)

January 19, 2014

Poster for 'epic sale'It’s the time of year when you expect to see garish posters outside shop windows advertising their latest reductions.

But I’ve noticed that it’s not enough these days just to use the word ‘sale’ to entice shoppers: you need to go one better than your neighbour in describing the extent of the savings. Read the rest of this entry »

Crimes (against English) of the year 2013

December 23, 2013

I enjoy collecting crimes against English and I’ve enjoyed reading through this year’s crop. Here are some of my favourites. Read the rest of this entry »

First Great Western get something right (almost)

November 20, 2013

Out of Service noticeI wonder whether First Great Western read this blog​? Unlikely, I know, but they appear to have improved something that I commented on here. Read the rest of this entry »

No fun allowed. Due to health and safety reasons.

October 4, 2013


The words ‘due to health and safety reasons’ in a notice are a pretty good indication that someone hasn’t thought properly about what they are saying. Read the rest of this entry »

Is this the worst ever use of the word ‘solutions’? Or, at least, the saddest?

June 13, 2013

'High Court Solutions' poster
One day, every business in the country will have the word ‘solutions’ in its name, whether it actually solves anything or not.

Even if, perhaps, it is part of the problem and not part of the solution. Read the rest of this entry »

When corporate branding and customer service collide

March 17, 2013

an 'out of order' notice on a train toilet
Some organisations like to put their corporate branding on every piece of communication that goes out to their customers. There are times, though, when that might not actually be a good idea. Read the rest of this entry »

Buzzword of the year 2012: disruptive

December 31, 2012

Somewhere in the middle of 2012 I found myself asking ‘Since when did disruptive become a compliment?’ In my youth, being disruptive would be something you were sent to the head teacher for. And not so long ago it might have got you before a magistrate. But now it has become something to aspire to. Read the rest of this entry »

I am a creative communicator. Or I used to be when the words meant something different.

December 23, 2012

Every year, LinkedIn release their list of the most over-used buzzwords in people’s profiles. And every year, journalists write about it. Partly because newsroom cuts mean that churnalism is getting more prevalent. And partly because writers can’t resist news (even if it’s spurious non-news) about words. Read the rest of this entry »

Tis the season for commercial euphemisms

December 2, 2012

"Hand Crafted Cards"

Seen on a packet of Christmas cards: ‘Hand Crafted’.

Translation: someone in a factory in China has glued a cardboard star on the front. By hand.


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