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Monday, February 6, 2012
Words and Language Toolbox

Keep deadwood out of your writer's garden

By Paula LaRocque

Wordiness is the most common enemy of a clear, brief, compelling writing style. Wherever there’s deadwood in writing, there’s also a loss of vigor. That’s why skilled writers try to make every word count.

There are many sources of deadwood, but repetitions and redundancies are among the easiest to spot and fix. Garden-variety clutter often is heralded by a preposition — a good reason to examine and cut prepositional phrases whenever possible. And redundancies are easy for the careful writer or editor to spot because they say the same thing twice.

“At this point in time” instead of “now,” for example, is garden-variety clutter. “Current incumbent” and “12 noon (or 12 midnight)” are redundancies. You can see that redundancies are not only wordy but also can be thoughtless, even silly. Still — probably because we see and hear them so often — they are easy to overlook.

Here’s a list of some common redundancies and deadwood expressions, with concise substitutes. You’ll recognize most of these examples immediately — maybe in some cases (if you’re like me), with a guilty blush.

conducted an investigation into: investigated

during the course of the investigation: during the investigation

made the statement that: said

at a later date: later

were found to be in agreement: agreed

succeed in making: make

make use of or utilize: use

were in attendance: attended

crisis situation: crisis

despite the fact that: although

prior to: before

subsequent to: after

say they are of the opinion: say they think or believe

on the occasion that: when

give consideration to: consider

have the need for: need

made an effort: tried

in conjunction with: with

as to whether: whether

until such time as: until

with the exception of: except

in other cases: otherwise

a sufficient number of: enough

in the vicinity of: near

located at: at

on a daily basis: daily

on a regular basis: regularly

on an experimental basis: experimentally

by the same token: likewise or similarly

which is called: called

continue on: continue

a distance of 35 miles: 35 miles

of an irreversible nature: irreversible

has the ability to: can

was declared the winner: won

said he was not in a position to: said he couldn’t

said in a quiet tone of voice: said quietly

the reason is because: the reason is

the reason why he: the reason he

nodded her head: nodded

shrugged his shoulders: shrugged

a number of; a small number of; few in number: some or several or few

in this day and age; at this point;

at present; at this point in time: now

it would seem that; it would appear that: apparently or probably

in the nature of; along the lines of: like

in view of the fact that; on account of the fact that; for the reason that: because or since

pertaining to; in connection with;

in reference to; with/in regard to: about

in the amount of; for the purpose of: for

to be in a position to; in order to/that;

with a view toward: to

in the event that; if it should turn out that: if

close down, close up: close

rested up, divided up, finished up, up until:(Strike “up”)

past history; past experience: history or experience

end result: result

sum total: total

root cause: cause

total effect: effect

basic fundamentals: fundamentals or basics

consensus of opinion: consensus

potential promise: potential or promise

free gift; free pass: gift, pass

true fact: fact

repeat again: repeat

referred back to: referred to

dates back to: dates to

new record: record

new recruit: recruit

new innovations: innovations

ATM machine: ATM (M stands for

“machine”: automated teller machine)

PIN or VIN number: PIN or VIN

(N stands for “number”)

HIV virus: HIV (V stands for “virus”)

foreign imports: imports

large in size: large

blue in color: blue

round in shape: round

personal friendship: friendship

strangled to death: strangled

at about 10 p.m.: at or about 10 p.m.

12 noon; 12 midnight: noon, midnight

2 a.m. in the morning: 2 a.m. or 2 in the morning

equally as good: equally good

Easter Sunday: Easter

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