Too big a deal

A reader asked which of these constructions is correct:

“It is too nice a day to stay inside the house.”

“It is too nice of a day to stay inside the house.”

The first one sounds better to most of us, and that “of” in the second construction irritates some of us. As Bryan A. Garner says, the “of” is unnecessary and makes the phrase less idiomatic. Generally, the second construction occurs in speech rather than in print, but it can creep into writing.

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Wilson Follett’s “Modern American Usage” calls “too big of a deal” and similar phrases ruralisms. Other examples of Follett’s ruralisms are “looking to buy a house” (“looking” with any infinitive), “a couple blocks away” (“of” is missing), and “grow the economy” (“grow” as a transitive for any other use than to raise crops or to tend something). These ruralisms irritate some of us, but we can forgive them in speech. (I would rather not call them ruralisms; I grew up in rural Catawba County.)

We are less forgiving of such phrases in writing. I personally don’t care for “looking to,” but I recognize that some writers use it to make their writing more conversational. But then, I ask, conversational to whom? To me, a lifetime English speaker, “looking to” is annoying. Perhaps I am not the only reader who feels that way.

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.