Friday, April 05, 2013

Writing tips: Words to throw away

“Edit” often is synonymous with “take out.” A lot of the work I do involves highlighting unnecessary text and pressing the Delete key.

It’s a tough job.

In order to make it easier (and you all want my work to be as easy as possible for me, don’t you?), I thought I would warn you against writing those words in the first place. If they aren’t there, I don’t have to cut them.

I have two categories in this post: words and phrases you can just remove without replacing; and phrases you can easily replace with a single word.

Terms to tank

It’s time to ditch some catch-phrases. Maybe the first time you heard them, they sounded cool. But here is my list of words and phrases that no one should say, let alone write down, anymore:

Push the envelope

Outside the box

Going forward, when it means “in the future”


On the ground, unless you mean something that is actually on the ground

At the end of the day

In the field of

It is to be noted that

The information you requested is below

This report/letter/email is in reference to

In light of this

The month of

In a nutshell

Obese text

Working for a large organization, I read a lot of text written in what I call “corporatese” — a language that obscures and hinders communication of ideas more than facilitating it. Documents filled with extra words and phrases that don’t add information, but just bloat the word count.

The next time you find that you’ve written any of these phrases, replace them with a single verb. Then re-read the text. You’ll be amazed at how much better it reads.

Conduct the evaluation of — replace with “evaluate”

During the period of — “between”

Cognizant of/aware of — “know”

At a later date — “later”

First and foremost — “first”

Due to the fact that — “because”

In reference to — “about”

There are a lot more, but you get the idea. When you see a noun phrase — a group of words that convey the same meaning as a single word — replace their lazy asses with that single hard-working word.

Suggest more terms to tank in the Comments.


  1. I've run your comments up the flagpole and saluted them.

  2. This is awesome. I featured this post in my weekly newsletter. Please let me know if you'd like a copy. Cheers,

  3. Excellent tips. Thank you.