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Words and Phrases to Avoid in Your Professional Writing

Words and Phrases to Avoid in Your Professional Writing

“I live in the city of Phoenix, in the state of Arizona. I do my best work between the hours of 2pm and 4pm in the afternoon, for the simple reason that those are the hours I feel clearest and most awake. So I try to ignore interruptions during that period of time, in order to focus on work.”

Notice anything awful about that first paragraph? (And not that I have a boring life. That’s true, but not the point here.)

How many useless phrases did you catch in those first three sentences? Take another look, and lask yourself what phrases could be removed to make the paragraph more clear.

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How about the following?

  • The city of
  • The state of
  • The hours of
  • In the afternoon
  • For the simple reason that
  • Period of time
  • In order to

Want to write a terrible office document or work email? Stuff it with official-sounding but unnecessary phrases like these.

There are times when some of these phrases are useful. “He works for the city of New Orleans” might be a perfectly legitimate statement to indicate that the person works for the city’s government. But how about, “I live in the city of New Orleans” instead?  If you remove “the city of” and just write, “I live in New Orleans,” would your reader be confused? Would he or she think New Orleans is the name of your house?

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You’ve probably seen wasted phrases like these many times in the documents and emails you read at work. Here are a few more of my personal favorites.

  1. In the month of
.” Hmm. I’ll bet $10 that the next word here is going be one of the months.
  2. “Due to the fact that.” I’ll trade you for a shorter “because”—and you can keep the change.
  3. By virtue of. Hey, I’ve got another “because” handy.
  4. Conduct a review. Do yourself a favor and just “review”—you’ll be done sooner.
  5. A difficult dilemma.” As opposed to…an easy dilemma?

One of the reasons so many professionals write in this repetitive, bloated style is that they think their writing comes across as more professional this way, and so will be taken more seriously. “Between the hours of 2pm and 4pm in the afternoon.” Ooh, so formal, so impressive, yes?

No. What comes across, instead of professionalism, is that the person writing doesn’t trust the reader to understand that the period between “2pm and 4pm” is measured in hours, and not, say, inches or pesos. It also suggests the reader is too stupid to catch the writer’s clever code “pm” and needs to be told that these times are “in the afternoon.”

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Not everyone is intentionally bulking up their professional writing with formal words however – some write this way because they were trained to in secondary and even higher education. Page length and word count mattered in high school and college; in fact, our teachers often rewarded us for the physical heft of our documents. Did you ever finish writing a paper for school and, if it didn’t hit the minimum page length, try to fatten it up by stuffing an extra “that” everywhere you could? We all did that, right? (Or did I just make a really embarrassing confession?)

The point is this: unless your supervisor actually asks you to hit a minimum word count in your work-related documents, cut ruthlessly when you edit.

Relevant confession: in my first draft of that sentence above, I wrote, “cut ruthlessly during the editing process.” Is “editing process” clearer than “edit”?

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Another relevant confession: earlier in this article, where I wrote “documents,” in my first draft I actually wrote “written documents.” As opposed to what? “Finger-painted” documents? Cut. Be ruthless. Look for words that don’t make sense or repeat information that you already gave.

I leave you with these words of advice: nothing shows the seriousness and professionalism of your documents more powerfully than when you write them clearly, to the point, and without one unnecessary phrase.

Don’t waste words.

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robbie hyman

Copywriter

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Last Updated on January 18, 2019

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

1. Limit the time you spend with them.

First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

2. Speak up for yourself.

Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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5. Change the subject.

When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

7. Leave them behind.

Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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