Writing Style – Caring Less

Klaus’s Question: “Here is something I’ve wondered about since I’ve seen it used both ways. When showing lack of concern, which is correct, ‘I could care less’ or ‘I couldn’t care less’?”

BizWritingTip response: The expression “I could care less” has caused a great deal of criticism for many years. The original phrase “I couldn’t care less” was a British creation. It was first seen in print in 1946 as the title of a book by Anthony Phelps regarding his experiences during World War II. The phrase migrated to North America in the ‘50s.

No one is quite sure when the inverted form, “I could care less,” came into being. However, it is common in North American slang today.

If you look at the phrase logically, “I couldn’t care less” means there is no interest whatsoever. “I could care less” means there is a little interest.

Regardless, when someone says either of these phrases, you still get the same meaning because of the inflection they put into the words. They are being sarcastic. They really don’t care.

In writing, there is no voice inflection. The inverted phrase just sits there looking weird. I strongly suggest that, if you feel the need to use the expression in written form, you use the older form “I couldn’t care less.” This does not require a pause for interpretation.

Trust this helps those who do care.

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