New or Improved? You Can't Have Both

"New and Improved!" — one of the most overused advertising claims, is so commonplace that it's easy to overlook the phrase's internal contradictions. By definition, only something that is already in existence can be made better. In other words, if a product is truly new, it can't be improved. Choose one or the other. You can't have both.

Sure, a product can have new improvements (the improvements of this year compared to the old improvements of last year, for example), but that's splitting hairs. Aside from to the logical contradiction it creates, the phrase's ubiquity has made it meaningless. Basically, no one believes it anymore. Let all companies banish it from their packaging. "New and Improved" is old and obsolete.

Henry Alpert,the secret identity behind Action Copy, discovered his writing powers when a radioactive bookworm bit him on the hand at a young age. Before going solo many years ago, he reported for an Asian daily newspaper and taught writing at esteemed universities. He's earned a Master of Fine Arts and has worked on staff at a New York financial trade magazine. In Mr. Alpert, the creative and analytical unite to create one powerful writer. Mr. Alpert currently lives a mild-mannered existence in a quiet neighborhood of New Orleans with his wife, infant son, and dog.

The Awkward Adverb is a monthly e-mail newsletter which highlights English-language flaws that have appeared on a sign, in print, on the Web, or anywhere in the public sphere. If you wish to subscribe to the e-mail newsletter version of The Awkward Adverb, click here. This link also contains archived entries.

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