Had or would are words that are too often being interchanged as if they were synonomous. ‘Had’ refers to the past and ‘would’ refers to the future. The problem arises in a sentence like this – “If only he would have turned right instead of left” – The correct version is “If only he had turned right instead of left” because the speaker is referring to something that has already happened. Another way to look at this is through a sentence like this – “If only he would tell the truth everything would be okay” – clearly two references to the future. “If I had it to do all over again I would do it differently”.
I have just been reading two Tom Clancy novels, all 1,900 pages!!! I have come close to hurling these books across the room. Don’t misunderstand. They’re great stories. It’s just that they are loaded with grammatical problems, the most prominent one being the negative split infinitive. Where are the editors and proofreaders??? Tom loves to write “… asked him to not open that book just now“. That should read “… asked him not to open that book just now”. Not only is this a grammatical crime, but it doesn’t even read well. It doesn’t flow or scan well. If you ever see Tom in your travels, will you please tell him not to do this anymore! As an aside, every time I come into contact with a publisher I ask how is it possible that publishers print so much with so many errorrs. After they have mumbled through the “we can’t catch them all” response I quickly volunteer to proofread their stuff at ridiculously low rates. You won’t believe it but they decline politely saying they already have a proofreading department!!! Who’s going to save the readers from the publishers???
Do we focus on something, or do we focus in on? This is yet another
example of our unconscious need to add words where we feel a need
to emphasise. To focus can be defined as meaning to concentrate. So,
like so many of these examples of excess verbiage, the desired effect
is achieved better with fewer words. In photography, to focus means
to bring the desired object into sharp contrast compared to its
surroundings. In life or in sport, we talk about the need to focus on
some aspect of our personal performance, meaning we will concentrate
our efforts to do better.