Word Count

Writers Talk About Writing

"Amongst," "Amidst," "Whilst": Pretentious or Quaint?

Whilst we often lament that language has become too informal, there are times when we try to make it too formal, and thusly too stiff-upper-lipist. "Amongst" and "amidst" are perfectly fine words, listed in dictionaries and everything, but they fall a bit on the "I know big words" scale of writing.
Premium Content

The full article is only available to Visual Thesaurus subscribers.

Already a subscriber? Click here to sign in.

Not a Subscriber Yet?

Try it RISK FREE! When you subscribe you get:

Full access to the Visual Thesaurus, including:

  • Easy-to-use interactive thesaurus and dictionary to explore words and language
  • Over 145,000 English words and 115,000 meanings to find the right word and discover related meanings
  • 39,000 proper nouns, including historical figures, phrases and trademarks
  • Intuitive word maps - free associate, brainstorm and use words precisely
  • Definitions and example sentences to master word usage
  • Meanings color-coded to indicate parts of speech and improve your grammar
  • Five additional languages: Spanish, German, Italian, French and Dutch (beta)
  • Two and three-dimensional views - rotate word maps to reveal complex relationships
  • Audio pronunciation in American and British accents
  • Printing and emailing word maps

And exclusive access to our online magazine dedicated to language and the creative process:

  • Access to great articles like this one.
  • Features and interviews with writers, ad and marketing creatives, lexicographers, teachers and more.
  • Join a community passionate about words, language and creativity.

14 day risk-free trial!

We think you'll love the Visual Thesaurus, but if you don't, we make it really easy to cancel your subscription. Just click on "My Account", log in with your username and password, and click "Cancel My Subscription". If you are still within the 14 day trial period, we'll give you the option to receive a full refund -- no questions asked.

Merrill Perlman is adjunct assistant professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and president of Merrill Perlman Consulting, offering consulting and freelance editing services and training in journalism, grammar and usage. Among her clients are The New York Times, ProPublica and the Poynter Institute. She writes the "Language Corner" column and blog for Columbia Journalism Review. Merrill retired in June 2008 after 25 years at The New York Times, most recently as director of copy desks with responsibility for managing 150 copy editors. Click here to read more articles by Merrill Perlman.