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Redundant Words and Phrases

Write Powerfully: Avoid Useless Words and Phrases

By Judy Vorfeld

“Reckless writ­ers and slip­shod speak­ers use many words where few would do,“says Owl Editing. “Yet for all the words, their expres­sion is but impov­er­ished; more words do not nec­es­sar­ily sig­nify more meaning.”

Do you pub­lish a newslet­ter, have a web­site, or write arti­cles or reviews? If so, you’re already doing your best to pub­lish well. But if you aren’t cer­tain that you’re suc­ceed­ing, here are a few tips that might help.

The Wrong Words Can Weaken Sentences and Thoughts

Try to keep your sen­tences crisp and clear. Tight. Many words and phrases are very, very unnec­es­sary. Really. In fact, some­times words and phrases weaken sentences.

Examples of words to avoid when you’re try­ing to write with strength: well, frankly, actu­ally, hon­estly, truth­fully, really, quite, so, very, some­what, seems, utterly, prac­ti­cally, basi­cally, and rather.

Sometimes we’re tempted to use weak or unnec­es­sary words and phrases in an effort to sound friendly or infor­mal. And some­times it’s okay to do that. It depends on the audience.

Here are a few phrases worth omit­ting (most of the time): “I think,” “kind of,” “sort of,” “in my opin­ion,” “need­less to say,” and “no doubt.”

Look at the above phrases. What value do they have? They’re often use­less fillers, and using them (in writ­ing or speak­ing) can be a form of pro­cras­ti­na­tion. Get to the issues!

Having said that words weaken, there are times when you must use diplo­macy, and you may need to use words like “seems,” “appears,” and “some­what.” Again, it depends on the con­text. (Some busi­nesses may say, “It appears that there is an error in your account­ing records” rather than “Pay your bill, you dead­beat!” or “We’ve dis­cov­ered some dis­crep­an­cies in our books,” rather than “Get ready for a visit with a grand jury.”)

Redundant Words & Phrases

Use redun­dant phrases spar­ingly (or omit) in busi­ness cor­re­spon­dence, arti­cles, and other writ­ten doc­u­ments. Here are a few that peo­ple use regularly:


  • 12 mid­night (midnight)


  • 12 noon (noon)


  • Absolutely essen­tial (essential)


  • Added bonus (bonus)


  • Both of them (both)


  • Crystal clear (clear)


  • End result (result)


  • Exact same (exact or same)


  • Fewer in num­ber (fewer)


  • Final out­come (outcome)


  • Free give-away or free gift (give-away or gift)


  • Inasmuch as (since, because)


  • Past his­tory (his­tory will work most of the time)


  • Point in time (point, time, or then)


  • There is no doubt that (how about “clearly”?)


  • Until such time as (until)



Make Your Paragraphs Interesting

Not only do we need to write clearly and tightly, we also need to make para­graphs inter­est­ing. When pos­si­ble, avoid all short sen­tences or all long sen­tences in a para­graph. Vary them. (I just did so in this paragraph).

It’s not nec­es­sary to do this with every para­graph, but such struc­ture helps the reader move along. And avoid huge para­graphs like the plague. In the busi­ness world, peo­ple often skip over long para­graphs. We have many options to make our doc­u­ments inter­est­ing to busy peo­ple: bul­lets, num­bers, indent­ing, bold­ing, and ital­i­ciz­ing, for exam­ple, along with head­ings and sub-headings that can be in con­trast­ing fonts and var­ied sizes.

Strive to have all your doc­u­ments become minor works of art. Let them con­vey the mes­sage effi­ciently, with­out wast­ing the reader’s time. Balance mes­sages on the page. Big assign­ment? No. You can do it!

Here are three sites with tips to help you make every word count:








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