Make Your Editor Cry: By in large vs By and large

Make Your Editor Cry:  By in large vs By and large

The idiom means, essentially, “in general” or “generally speaking.” As with many idioms in use in the English language, this one has its roots in the sea. In nautical terms, the word by refers to being in the direction of something—as in, “That boat is by the wind.” The word large describes instances in which the wind blows in a way that allows sailors “to maintain their direction of travel anywhere in a wide arc without needing to make continual adjustments to the set of the sails.” According to Webster, “by and large” originally meant “alternately close-hauled and not close-hauled.”

Admittedly, neither “by in large” nor “by and large” make much sense in modern vernacular on dry land. Regardless, only the latter phrase “by and large” is the correct way to say “in general.” The phrase “by in large” is not a thing.

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