What you can grow

This sentence led a reader to call us last week:

Since she quit her job in March, her goal has been to continue growing the business.

As I indicated with italics, the offending phrase was "growing the business." The reader, who was quite animated, wanted us to stop using this bit of business jargon. In her mind, you can grow flowers and you can grow a beard, but you cannot grow a business.

In "Garner’s Modern American Usage," Bryan A. Garner writes, "Recently, however, grow has blossomed as a transitive verb in nonfarming and nongrooming contexts. It is trendy in business jargon: growing the industry, growing your business, growing your investment and so on. But because many readers will stumble over these odd locutions, the trend should be avoided."

That’s good advice for writers. Eighty percent of the American Heritage Book of English Usage’s expert panel reject this usage of grow.

But some commenters don’t go into a frenzy over the phrase. Here is John McIntyre’s take on grow. From McIntyre’s blog, I followed a link to Milwaukee’s Kathy Schenck’s Words to the Wise.

I have always found "growing a business" and "growing our economy" jargon, and I change "growing" to "expanding." But lately, I’ve let such usage slide. It just seems so common that the fight hardly seems worth it any more. The phone call from the reader reminded me that some people are sticklers about this matter and that I’d do well to keep them from spewing their coffee all over the newspaper because they have encountered such a phrase.

We aim to please.

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.