The favour that this word has won during the past few years is astonishing. It is an egregious example of the habit of preferring a novel word of vague import to established words of precise meaning; indeed this word seems to have a quality that impels people to use it in settings in which it has no meaning at all.
Examples of its meaningless use are:
The independence of the Teaching Hospitals and their freedom from the overall control of the Regional Boards... .
The overall growth of London should be restrained.
Radical changes will be necessary in the general scheme of exchequer grants in aid of local authorities, therefore, to secure that overall the policy of the Government in concentrating those grants as far as possible where the need is greatest is further developed. (Here, it will be observed, overall is an adverb.)
When an individual leaves an establishment, and his departure results in a net reduction of one in the overall strength. . .
It looks as if the yield for the first fortnight of 1949 will be fewer than forty fresh orders, representing an overall annual output of no more than a thousand.
When overall is not meaningless, it is commonly used as a synonym for some more familiar word, especially average, total, and aggregate.
Compared with the same week a year ago, overall production of coal showed an increase of more than 100,000 tons. (i.e. deepmined plus opencast.)
For in all or altogether:
Overall the broadcasting of "Faust" will cover eight hours.
I have made a note of the overall demand of this company for the next year.
The houses here are built to an overall density of three to the acre.
Vice-Admiral Duncan, of the United States Navy, was in overall command.
For on the whole:
The Secretary of State for the Colonies stated that the overall position in Malaya had greatly improved, although in some places it was still difficult.
Small vital schemes of repair and adaptation which continually arise and must be dealt with irrespective of any attempt to improve overall hospital standards.
They came forward as witnesses because of the overall fear of being involved in a capital charge.
An overall plan for North Atlantic Defence measures was approved yesterday by the Defence Minister at the Hague.
Mr. C. said he could quite understand that the Conservative Party were unwilling to look at the overall picture.
Overall, according to the dictionaries, means "including every thing between the extreme points", as one speaks of the overall length of a ship. For this purpose it is useful, but it is high time that its excursions into the fields of other words were checked. So ubiquitous has the word become that it is a pleasant surprise to come across an old-fashioned general in such sentences as:
These reports may be used for obtaining a general picture of the efficiency of a given industry.
Although Europe's general deficit with the outside world fell by over $2 billion during 1949, its deficit with the United States fell hardly at all.
Most writers today would say " overall picture " and " overall deficit " almost automatically.
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