Posted by: Jack Henry | January 19, 2023

Editor’s Corner: Fits or Bits?

Dear Editrix,

I’ve always used and heard the phrase “bits and spurts,” but the other day someone used the phrase “fits and starts” in the same manner I would have used “bits and spurts.” It made me wonder if I had been using the wrong words this entire time, like singing the wrong words to a song for decades unknowingly!


Singing in Bits and Spurts

Dear Reader,

This is an interesting question, and I couldn’t find an exact answer for you. I have heard “fits and starts,” which seems to be the more common way to describe something as intermittent or sporadic, or possibly just a little bit at a time. That does sound very much like your use of “bits and spurts.”

It looks like “fits and starts” is more common in England and the U.S., so I thought maybe it was a more regional thing and that wherever you are from, “bits and spurts” is more common, yet I couldn’t find anything confirming that either.

I found various articles using “bits and spurts” to describe intermittent growth in children, the coming of spring in Kansas, sports performance, and growing pains about the hip and pelvis.

“Fits and starts” was used similarly to talk about the negative aspect of studying sporadically vs. studying consistently; the progression of military technology; and stopping and starting a host of other activities.

I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more of a definitive answer, but if you use your version of the phrase, just note that “fits and starts” might be understandable to more people.

Kara Church | Technical Editor, Advisory | Technical Publications

Pronouns: she/her | Call via Teams |

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