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General Writing and Grammar Help/usage of the words "flaw / fault / imperfection / shortcoming"

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Question
Dear Ted,
Can the words "flaw", "imperfection", "fault" and "shortcoming" be used interchangeably to refer to something wrong with a person and/or thing? In other words, do the following sentences make sense?
1. His only "flaw / fault / imperfection / shortcoming" is he's obese.
2. His only "flaw / fault / imperfection / shortcoming" is he's lazy.
3. The diamond has a "flaw / fault / imperfection / shortcoming".

Answer
Dear Glen:

Can the words "flaw", "imperfection", "fault" and "shortcoming" be used
interchangeably to refer to something wrong with a person and/or thing? In other
words, do the following sentences make sense?
1. His only "flaw / fault / imperfection / shortcoming" is he's obese.
2. His only "flaw / fault / imperfection / shortcoming" is he's lazy.
3. The diamond has a "flaw / fault / imperfection / shortcoming".

*** Yes, Glen.  These four words are synonyms and each of them work very well in the three sentences you have written.

I offer you one caution. "Shortcoming" is slightly different from the other words.  "Flaw/fault/imperfection" = something wrong, some error, a mistake.

"Shortcoming" = not as good as it should be.  It FALLS SHORT of the "ideal."

This word can be used in a special sense:  Peter never finishes his assignments on time; they are always a day late.  He needs to correct this shortcoming.

You cannot make this statement about a diamond.  The shortcomings of diamond cannot be "corrected."

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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