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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 March 5, 2021

Science Says People Who Talk To Themselves Are Geniuses

Science Says People Who Talk To Themselves Are Geniuses

I talk a lot to myself. It helps me to keep my concentration on the activity on hand, makes me focus more on my studies, and gives me some pretty brilliant ideas while chattering to myself; more importantly, I produce better works. For example, right now, as I am typing, I am constantly mumbling to myself. Do you talk to yourself? Don’t get embarrassed admitting it because science has discovered that those who talk to themselves are actually geniuses… and not crazy!

Research Background

Psychologist-researcher Gary Lupyan conducted an experiment where 20 volunteers were shown objects, in a supermarket, and were asked to remember them. Half of them were told to repeat the objects, for example, banana, and the other half remained silent. In the end, the result shown that self-directed speech aided people to find the objects faster, by 50 to 100 milliseconds, compared to the silent ones.

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“I’ll often mutter to myself when searching for something in the refrigerator or the supermarket shelves,” said Gary Lupyan.

This personal experience actually made him conduct this experiment. Lupyan, together with another psychologist, Daniel Swigley, came up with the outcomes that those to talk to oneself are geniuses. Here are the reasons:

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It stimulates your memory

When you are talking to yourself, your sensory mechanism gets activated. It gets easier on your memory since you can visualize the word, and you can act accordingly.[1]

It helps stay focused

When you are saying it loud, you stay focused on your task,[2] and it helps you recognise that stuff immediately. Of course, this only helps if you know what the object you are searching looks like. For example, a banana is yellow in colour, and you know how a banana looks like. So when you are saying it loud, your brain immediately pictures the image on your mind. But if you don’t know what banana looks like, then there is no effect of saying it loud.

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It helps you clarify your thoughts

Every one of us tends to have various types of thoughts. Most make sense, while the others don’t. Suppose you are furious at someone and you feel like killing that person. Now for this issue you won’t run to a therapist, will you? No, what you do is lock yourself in a room and mutter to yourself. You are letting go off the anger by talking to yourself, the pros and cons of killing that person, and eventually you calm down. This is a silly thought that you have and are unable to share it with any other person. Psychologist Linda Sapadin said,[3]

“It helps you clarify your thoughts, tend to what’s important and firm up any decisions you are contemplating.”

Featured photo credit: Girl Using Laptop In Hotel Room/Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

Reference

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