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Without Further Adieu

A friend sent me a sentence that popped out at her from the first paragraph of a report:

Without further adieu, let’s get started.

It sounds correct, doesn’t it? But I am certain the writer did not mean “Without further farewell”–not at the beginning of his report!

Clearly the writer intended “Without further ado.” What went wrong?

I have two theories: (1) he simply typed what he heard in his mind, or (2) he was not aware of the homonym pair ado-adieu.

If he simply typed what was going through his mind, he needs to start proofreading what he writes–especially if his success depends on people’s confidence in his reports. I wrote about this problem in my post “I Right Email and Reports.” And he must use his grammar and spelling checker. When I typed “Without further adieu,” my Microsoft Word grammar and spelling checker flagged the error and neatly offered the correct word.

I suspect my second theory is correct: He was not aware of the homonym pair. It is possible that he has never read or noticed the word ado and just assumed adieu was the word he wanted. Still, Microsoft could have helped him.

People who attend my business writing courses are often surprised to learn about certain word pairs. In the pair compliment-complement, they did not realize that complement is a word. In flush-flesh, they are surprised that “flesh out an idea” is correct–they had been flushing theirs out. And they are slow to agree that “the principal reason” is correct–they would have sworn “principle reason” the winner.

Maybe it is because people do not read a lot. I am not sure. But I am sure that flushing out ideas is bad for one’s career!

Why do people make such errors? Lack of awareness? Failure to proofread? Please share your view.



PS: Learn about our online, self-study courses including Proofreading Like a Pro.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

16 comments on “Without Further Adieu”

  • Language Log has a great post every so often about “eggcorns.” The adieu/ado confusion is one of my pet peeves, I must admit. I’ve found some clever ones in my students’ papers, though (even though they didn’t realize how clever they were). One student wrote that she came from a “close-net family.” I could see the family being close together, as if they were in a net. I almost hated to tell her that her version was incorrect!

  • I was speaking with someone today about the use of French in everyday language. Perhaps the person who wrote the original sentence studied English, but not French.

  • Nina, thank you for all the good information. I loved learning about Language Log, “eggcorns,” and the “close-net family.”

    The family reference is very dear. I can understand your hesitance to correct the writer.


  • Adieu actually means “see you at God’s” which infers that you will see the person in heaven, so you do not say “adieu” unless you plan to not see the person again on this earth. I come from Belgium, and that is how we used the word.

  • I don’t know what the current elementary English teaching vogue is, but for a long time it was thought better to accept any attempt at words without correction. As a result there are large numbers of people who were never encouraged to identify the difference between homophones, thus the frequent confusions of here/hear, there/they’re/their and so on.

    By the way (copied from Wikipedia), “… homonyms are simultaneously homographs (words that share the same spelling, irrespective of their pronunciation) and homophones (words that share the same pronunciation, irrespective of their spelling).” In this case, ado/adieu are (depending on pronunciation) homophones.

  • Lynn, I loved that you mentioned the “compliment-complement” confusion.
    For over 10 years, the technology company I work for used this word incorrectly in their company vision, stating that they offered “complimentary technologies.”
    When I started here last year, I politely informed our office manager that this was not the correct word, explaining that “complimentary technologies” really meant that we offered *free* technologies- which is certainly not the company vision! Needless to say, she quickly rushed to have the word changed on all company documents.
    It surprised me that it took that many years for someone to notice it, and that the person who finally noticed it was me- a recent college graduate brand new to the business world. I guess I’m just an English nerd!

  • I find your statement about people not reading as much anymore leading to these errors. I found myself correcting a mistake of mine as I read a book and found the phrase “for all intents and purposes.” I had never seen it in writing and based on people’s pronunciation I thought the phrase was “for all intensive purposes.”

  • Obvoiusly nobody has watched The Sound of Music to get the proper pronunciation of adieu. It is not a homophone of “ado”

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