- Communication is so important in today’s world, that I’m always puzzled by the terrible misuse of the language. Many people seem to go out of their way to make things sound complicated; in fact, the legal and insurance businesses do it on purpose, I’m sure. They fill their documents and contracts with wordiness so that people have a more difficult time understanding.
Here Are a Few Examples:
Wordy phrase Concise words instead of saying… Say… due to the fact that… or, considering the fact that… because or since at which time… when… for a period of… for… in the event… if… in addition… also… with the exception of… except… successfully accomplished… accomplished… provided guidance for… guided… the month of …(July) just say… (July) a large number of… many… in/with reference to… about… in spite of the fact that… although… during the time that… while… at the present time… now… in the near future… soon… a majority of… most… in this day and age… now… at your earliest convenience… say ‘by’ instead… on a daily basis… daily… or, every day… in order to… to… at the same time as… as…
There are many more sayings (hundreds I’d guess) and they seem to be more prevalent in modern writing. The problem is—the wordier you write, the less clear it is. Simple, concise language is easier to read and far easier to understand.
Take time to think about what you’re saying. If a word, or a phrase, isn’t needed, take it out. Delete it. Get rid of it. Stop wordiness before it starts.
- the month of August is the hottest month in Texas.
- August is the hottest month in Texas.
There’s not a single difference between those sentences, except that the second sentence has 3 fewer words.
- I exercise on a daily basis.
- I exercise daily.
- Due to the fact that the CEO is late, we’ll delay the meeting.
- Because the CEO is late, we’ll delay the meeting.
- She’ll be promoted in the near future.
- She’ll be promoted soon.
As you can see, in those three examples, we used 3 words instead of 13—and, we didn’t lose any clarity; in fact, if anything, the meaning is more clear.
Writing Example 2
- In order to accomplish this task, and due to the fact that the CEO isn’t here at the present time, a majority of the project team will be going home in the near future. However, during the time they waited, and in spite of the fact that they had no leadership, they successfully accomplished their tasks for a period of four hours. Let me know what to do at your earliest convenience in order for me to do my job.
- To do this task, and since the CEO isn’t here now, most of the project team will be going home soon. However, while they waited, even though they had no leadership, they did their tasks for four hours. Let me know by 3:00 so I can finish the job.
As you can see, in the second example, we used 50 words instead of 80—and it’s easier to understand.
It doesn’t have to be an extreme example to improve your writing. Simple redundancies can not only improve your writing, but make it more understandable. Let’s look at a few examples.
In my book, the No Mistakes Grammar, Misused Words, I devote an entire chapter to redundant phrases. It’s that important.
Redundant expression Concise definition advanced warning warning unexpected surprise surprise major dilemma dilemma 12:00 AM Midnight or 12:00 PM Noon midnight/noon The end result, or the final result result The final outcome outcome
Keep in mind, that these words aren’t just a problem with contributing to wordiness. In many cases, the words are already defined in the accompanying word. An example of this is unexpected surprise. A surprise, by definition, is unexpected.
Now, let’s take a look at some of these examples used in sentences.
- the weatherman gave us advanced warning that a tornado was coming.
- the weatherman warned us that a tornado was coming.
- The promotion was an unexpected surprise.
- The promotion was a surprise.
- Please let me know what the end result is?
- Please let me know the result?
- I want to know both your personal opinion and Tom’s opinion.
- I want to know your opinion and Tom’s. (Both and personal were not needed.)
The final example was a double-whammy. It displayed (both) wordiness and a redundancy. (Remember, when you use and/or, you seldom need the word ‘both’.)
Whether you’re writing an email to your coworker inviting them to lunch, or a résumé or cover letter, or a proposal to a new client—ensure it is written to the best of your ability. And if your ability isn’t good enough—learn!
This is important.
I can tell you, if I receive a résumé or cover letter that is incoherent, or sloppy, or too wordy—I trash it. A few mistakes I can put up with, but if I see too many, there’s no hesitation. I don’t call and ask the person to rewrite the résumé, I simply toss it in the garbage. If it’s a digital copy, I delete it. There are too many people who know how to communicate. Why bother with the others?
If you want to know more about grammar, check out the No Mistakes Grammar, Volume I book. It will only cost a few cups of coffee. Isn’t that worth it?
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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.
About the Author
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