If you will

If you will, meaning if you will allow me to use this phrase, is a hedge phrase, and it could usually be removed. Writers often use it to apologize for a weak phrase—often a bad metaphor, a corny coinage, or a phrase the writer is reluctant to use. And sometimes it’s used when a writer doesn’t trust his or her readers to understand a metaphor—for example:

A musical chairs with cars, if you will. [Savannah Now]

[It] becomes your filing cabinet, if you will, for all those end-of-life papers that you’re dealing with. [Twin Cities Pioneer Press]

In other cases, writers use if you will simply because it sounds like the type of phrase people use when being clever or saying something profound—for instance:

And so it seems that the lapse, the failure to connect the dots, if you will, really is more egregious than we even knew about. [Fox News]

These are, if you will, the team’s twin Achilles heels. [Ottawa Citizen]

2 thoughts on “If you will”

  1. I find this phrase to be most often misused in the pretentious sense and I often respond with ‘No, I will not, in fact!” It is one of my many pet peeves and I really wish people would stop using it.

  2. I think it’s fine to use it if you know you’re being silly or unconventional by saying something. It’s particularly annoying when somebody uses it with a well-established metaphor, like the Ottawa Citizen example. “Oh, Achilles heel, you say? As in the weak point of the legendary warrior? My, how original! Had you not said ‘if you will’ I’d have had NO idea what you were on about! Well done, sir!” /sarcasm.


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