Grammar Doesn’t Matter—or Does It?
17 Time-Consuming Words/Phrases That Make You Look Like An Ass (And, waste your time)
There are a lot of people who like to sound intelligent, but at the same time the speak as if grammar doesn’t matter. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to sound intelligent, but they go about it the wrong way. They puff up their verbal communication, and especially their written communication, with flowery language and $2 words, when 50c ones would suffice. In fact, not only would the 50c ones suffice, they might sound better.
Picture of Inigo Montoya, whose friend, Wesley, was mostly dead in the movie, The Princess Bride, a beloved film from the 1980s.
There are many particular phrases that are guilty of this. If you think that grammar doesn’t matter, look at the following 17–they are some of the worst offenders.
- At a later time
- During the course of
- In order to/in order for
- In the event of
- Due to the fact that
- At the present time
- For a period of
- Has a requirement for
- In close proximity to
- In relation to
- In the amount of
- In view of
- In the process of
- Is responsible for
- The use of
- Time period
- With the exception of
Let’s take a closer look at how a few of these wordy phrases might play out in normal writing.
Saving Time and Space
During the course of the meeting, you mentioned that at the present time you were swamped, and in order for you to get healthy, you’d need to rest for an undetermined period of time. (34 words)
The problem we have is—due to the fact that you’re out—the marketing department has a requirement for an analyst, and in view of your situation, we are in the process of finding a suitable candidate. In the event of your quick return, we’d be willing to compensate you in the amount of $6,000 per month for the use of anything you need, and for a time period of one year. With the exception of Margaret, who, as you know, is responsible for market research, this will make you the highest paid person in the department. (98 words)
During the meeting, you mentioned that you were swamped and you’d need to rest to get healthy. (17 words as opposed to 34.)
The problem is—because you’re out—the marketing department needs an analyst, and we are looking for suitable candidates. If you return quickly, we’ll pay you $6,000 per month for one year. Except for Margaret, head of market research, you will then be the highest paid person in the department. (51 words as opposed to 98.)
To summarize—the fluffy example took 132 words to write, while the concise version took 68 words. We saved 64 words—without losing clarity. (Notice I didn’t say without losing any clarity. That’s because I didn’t need the word any to make my point.)
Few people, if any, make all these mistakes, but enough of us are guilty of misusing some of them, and every word counts.
Every time you write something, look it over and ask—“Which words aren’t needed?” and “How can I clarify this?”
Now that we’ve resolved that issue, let’s look at the 17 phrases and analyze them. First, we’ll show what too many people say, then, in the table beside it, what they could say.
Saying Grammar Doesn’t Matter is the Root of the Problem
And These Seventeen Phrases Prove It
|What gets said||Say instead||Example|
|At a later time||later||What’s the difference between meet me later and meet me at a later time?|
|During the course of||during||During the course of the movie, he had to go to the restroom. During the movie, he had to go to the restroom.|
|In order to/for||to/for||He went to the store in order to get milk, or, He went to the store to get milk.|
|In the event of||If||In the event of a power failure, call the electric company. If power goes out, call the electric company.|
|Due to the fact that||Because/since||Due to the fact that we have no power, we’ll have to use candles. Since we don’t have power, we’ll have to use candles.|
|At the present time||now||I’m not conducting interviews at the present time. I’m not conducting interviews now.|
|For a period of||For||We’ll have an interim CEO for a period of 6 months. We’ll have an interim CEO for 6 months.|
|Has a requirement for||needs||The finance department has a requirement for an accountant. The finance department needs an accountant.|
|In close proximity to||near||The body was in close proximity to the river. The body was near the river.|
|In relation to||about or regarding||In relation to the lower sales…Regarding/about the lower sales…|
|In the amount of||use ‘for’ or omit it||The charge was in the amount of $500. The charge was $500.|
|In view of||because of/due to||In view of her state of mind, we’ll need a substitute. Due to her state of mind we’ll need a substitute.|
|In the process of||omit (not needed)||He’s in the process of painting the house. He’s painting the house.|
|Is responsible for||does/handles or omit||He is responsible for buying the groceries. He buys the groceries.|
|The use of||omit||The use of the phrase ‘the use of’ is not needed. ‘The use of’ is not needed.|
|Time period||time||During that time period I’ll be away. During that time I’ll be away.|
|With the exception of||except||With the exception of Mary, we’re all going. Except Mary, we’re all going.|
As you can see—I hope—from these examples, many of these words are not needed. The key is ~~being able to~~ recognizing the ones you don’t need and eliminating them, or making substitutions. The easiest ~~method~~ way of doing that is either removing the word/phrase, or substituting another for it. If the meaning of the sentence changes, you have a problem, but if it doesn’t change, proceed
Two of the worst offenders are ‘at the present time’ and ‘in the process of.’ I think I hear these more than any, and they take up so much space. I asked a friend last week what he was doing, and he said, at the present time, nothing. He could have just said nothing. He wasted all those words ~~for nothing.~~
And before you dismiss this advice as useless or nonsensical, or say that grammar doesn’t matter, remember, one of those snickers you hear behind your back might be coming from your boss.
By the way, you get this and so much more when you buy the No Mistakes Grammar, Volume I book, Misused Words.
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Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series as well as books about grammar and publishing. See the complete list here.
He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.