Omit Needless Words
A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.
The Elements of Style, Strunk and White
I read a lot of blogs and I noticed that corporate speak and empty words and phrases have reached an epidemic level. Corporate speak is text full important sounding words that have no real meaning.
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This is an extreme example, but it illustrates how a string of trendy, intelligent-sounding words turns a piece of writing into meaningless mush.
Below is a list of 10 words and phrases to avoid in your writing if you want to make your writing clear and concise.
This is the number one improperly used word on the Internet. Writers use utilize instead of use. Why? I suppose they think it sounds more intelligent. Almost everywhere I see this word, the writer should have used the word use.
Utilize means to use something for which it was not intended. For example, “We’re going to utilize that old Mac as a door stop.”
Wrong: Can I utilize your computer to send an email?
Right: Can I use your computer to send an email?
Here’s a simple rule so you’ll know when to use utilize: NEVER.
You usually find simply in a tutorial, and in most cases, you can delete this word. Even David Pogue from New York Times uses this annoying adverb: First, the biggie: Simply logging into Feedly with your Google name and password instantly re-creates your Google Reader setup.
First, if it were so simple, we would not need to read a tutorial! Second, if something were difficult to do, would you say, for example, “Difficultly reboot your computer”?
Wrong: Simply create some blog posts in WordPress.
Right: Create some blog posts in WordPress.
Wrong: To do this, simply copy the code below and add it to your child theme’s function.php.
Right: To do this, copy the code below and add it to your child theme’s function.php.
Note: The word just is used the same way as the word simply, and you can usually delete it.
Impact is another word that has infected our language, and I blame TV and print news for this disease.
Impact: The striking of one body against another; collision. For example, asteroids make an impact when they hit another body in space.
Wrong: The Sequester will impact our economy.
Right: The Sequester will hurt our economy.
In this example, you could use affect, destroy, ruin, or slow to replace impact.
4 Firstly, Secondly, Lastly
When you want to make a series of points, use first, second, third, and last instead of firstly, secondly, thirdly, and lastly.
5 Reach Out
Reach Out is used in place of call, contact, meet with, and so on. You reach out to someone who is drowning. You call someone you want to speak with.
6 Go Ahead
An unnecessary filler used in tutorials.
Wrong: Go ahead and start your computer.
Right: Start your computer.
7 Thanks in Advance
You often see this where someone is asking a question in a forum and they want to “Thank you in advance.” In advance of what?
Instead, say “Thanks.”
Repurpose is a silly word used in place of reuse or, dare I say it, utilize.
Wrong: We’re going to repurpose that old Mac as a door stop.
Right: We’re going to utilize that old Mac as a door stop.
Note: In the last example, we are using the old Mac to do something for which it was not designed. As a result, utilize is correct. But you could replace it with use and make it very clear what you are doing.
9 The fact of the matter is…. The fact is….
This is more filler and does not add any information to your statement.
Wrong: The fact of the matter is that I have a serious drinking problem, but I won’t apologize for it.
Right: I have a serious drinking problem, but I won’t apologize for it.
In this example, I removed 7 words but kept the exact meaning.
Boasts is another trendy marketing term used in place of has, offers, provides, and comes with. You often here it used with places or things. For example, “Vail boasts over 5200 acres of Colorado’s best skiing.” Really? I didn’t know a ski area could talk let alone boast.
Wrong: Genesis is one of the most prominent WordPress theme frameworks out there at the moment. It boasts quite a few options…
Right: Genesis is one of the most prominent WordPress theme frameworks out there at the moment. It includes quite a few options…
– It has quite a quite few options…
– It provides quite a few options…
It’s the little things that separate strong writing from weak writing. If you want to strengthen your writing, to make it more succinct, avoid using the 10 words and phrases in this list.
Brevity is the soul of whit.
Hamlet, William Shakespeare