Make Your Editor Cry: Abject Goodness vs. Abject Badness

Make Your Editor Cry:  Abject Goodness vs. Abject Badness

Strongest of mortal men, To lowest pitch of abject fortune thou art fallen. — (John Milton [1608–1674], Samson Agonistes: line 168-169)

The word abject means sunk to or existing in a low state or condition: very bad or severe: cast down in spirit: hopeless or resigned.

It does not mean extreme or ultimate or complete or total or utmost. It means low. It means bad. It means hopeless.

Therefore, you should always use abject in the negative sense.

One cannot experience “abject joy” or “abject adulation” or “abject happiness” unless you’re deliberately trying to be paradoxical, and even then it’s likely to just go over your reader’s head and greatly annoy your editor.

Examples:

Incorrect:

The next morning I awoke with abject joy in my heart.

Correct:

The next morning I awoke with abject sadness in my heart.

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