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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 July 18, 2019

What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People

What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People

Some people just seem to float through life with a relentless sense of happiness – through the toughest of times, they’re unfazed and aloof, stopping to smell the roses and drinking out of a glass half full.

They may not have much to be happy about, but the simplicity behind that fact itself may make them happy.

It’s all a matter of perspective, conscious effort and self-awareness. Listed below are a number of reasons why some people are always happy.

1. They Manage Their Expectations

They’re not crushed when they don’t get what they want – or misled into expecting to get the most out of every situation. They approach every situation pragmatically, hoping for the best but being prepared for the worst.

2. They Don’t Set Unrealistic Standards

Similar to the last point, they don’t live their lives in a constant pursuit towards impossible visions of perfection, only to always find themselves falling short of what they want.

3. They Don’t Take Anything for Granted

Happiness rests with feeling fulfilled – those who fail to stop and appreciate what they have every now and again will never experience true fulfillment.

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4. They’re Not Materialistic

There are arguing viewpoints on whether or not money can really buy happiness; if it can, then we know from experience that we can never be satisfied because there will always be something newer or better that we want. Who has ever had enough money?

5. They Don’t Dwell

They don’t sweat the small things or waste time worrying about things that don’t really matter at the end of the day. They don’t let negative thoughts latch onto them and drain them or distract them. Life’s too short to worry.

6. They Care About Themselves First

They’re independent, care for themselves and understand that they must put their needs first in order to accommodate the needs of others.

They indulge, aim to get what they want, make time for themselves and are extremely self-reliant.

7. They Enjoy the Little Things

They stop to smell the roses. They’re accustomed to find serenity when it’s available, to welcome entertainment or a stimulating discussion with a stranger when it crosses their path. They don’t overlook the small things in life that can be just as important.

8. They Can Adapt

They’re not afraid of change and they work to make the most out of new circumstances, good or bad. They thrive under pressure, are not overwhelmed easily and always embrace a change of pace.

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9. They Experiment

They try new things, experience new flavors and never shy away from something they have yet to experience. They never order twice from the same menu.

10. They Take Their Time

They don’t unnecessarily rush through life. They work on their own schedule to the extent that they can and maneuver through life at their own relaxing pace.

11. They Employ Different Perspectives

They’re not stuck in one perspective; a loss can result in a new opportunity, hitting rock bottom can mean that there’s no where to go but up.

12. They Seek to Learn

Their constant pursuit of knowledge keeps them inspired and interested in life. They cherish information and are on a life-long quest to learn as much as they can.

13. They Always Have a Plan

They don’t find themselves drifting without purpose. When something doesn’t go as planned, they have a plan for every letter in the alphabet to fall back on.

14. They Give Respect to Get It

They are respectful and, in turn, are seen as respectable; the respect they exude earns them the respect they deserve.

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15. They Consider Every Opportunity

They always have their eyes open for a new road, a new avenue worth exploring. They know how to recognize opportune moments and pounce on them to make the most of every situation. Success is inevitable for them.

16. They Always Seek to Improve

Perpetual self-improvement is the key towards their ongoing thirst for success. Whatever it is they do, they take pride in getting better and better, from social interactions to mundane tasks. Their pursuit at being the best eventually materializes.

17. They Don’t Take Life Too Seriously

They’re not ones to get offended easily over-analyze or complicate matters. They laugh at their own faults and misfortunes.

18. They Live in the Moment

They don’t live for tomorrow or dwell on what may have happened yesterday. Every day is a new opportunity, a new chapter. They live in the now, and in doing so, get the most out of every moment.

You can learn how to do so too: How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Past or Future

19. They Say Yes

Much more often than they say no. They don’t have to be badgered to go out, don’t shy away from new opportunities or anything that may seem inconvenient.

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20. They’re Self-Aware

Most important, they’re wholly aware of themselves. They self-reflect and are conscious of their states of mind. If somethings bothering them, they fix it.

We’re all susceptible to feeling down every now and again, but we are all equipped with the necessary solutions that just have to be discovered.

Lack of confidence, inability to feel fulfilled, and susceptibility to stress are all matters that can be controlled through the way we handle our lives and perceive our circumstances.

Learn about How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life.

Final Thoughts

The main philosophy employed by the happiest includes the idea that life’s simply too short: life’s too short to let things get you down, to take things for granted, to pursue absolute and unrealistic perfection.

For some, employing these characteristics is a second nature – they do it without knowing. For others, a conscious effort must be put forth every now and again. Self-Awareness is key.

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Featured photo credit: Charles Postiaux via unsplash.com

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