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Write Powerfully: Avoid Useless Words and Phrases


Judy Vorfeld

Do you pub­lish a newslet­ter, have a web­site, or write arti­cles or reviews or a blog? 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 ideas that might help.

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: 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,” “I believe” “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.”)


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