The ability to write well is a rare and wonderful gift. For those who have it, writing is a defining personality trait and a way of life. For those who don't, writing can be an exhausting and awful struggle.
When writing in a professional setting, nothing is more important than clarity. Communications pros need to strike a balance between sounding intelligent and delivering a coherent message. Yet often they trip over their own words and lapse into embellishment, muddying their message and losing their audience's attention along the way.
Writers have always struggled with clarity and succinctness. The American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne is famously quoted as saying, "Easy reading is damn hard writing." Blaise Pascal, a 15th century French philosopher, once wrote a correspondent, "I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the opportunity to make it shorter." And leave it to Strunk and White to deliver what is probably the best advice on clarity: "A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a painting should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts."
Still, professional writing is full of unnecessary words and phrases that do more harm than good. To help fix that, here are 8 phrases to avoid in your writing, courtesy of contributors to PR News' Writer's Guidebook Vol. 1:
- Added-value: What does it mean—does it cut costs or time, maybe streamline a process? Without specifics, it’s a meaningless phrase from the customer perspective.
- I know you’re busy, but: Instead of stating the obvious (we’re all busy, after all) and irritating your contact, just get to the point.
- Hence, thus, etc.: Old British jargon has a time and a place, but most writing should aim to be casual and accessible.
- None other than: This phrase doesn’t seem sincere.
- I would like to inform you that: This is a complete waste of words, since once the reader gets to whatever follows it will quite clear that the writer wanted to say it.
- In this day and age: It will be clear to the reader when you’re writing about the present.
- With that being said: You can start any sentence just as well without using this phrase.
- At the end of the day: If you can’t make your point with the rest of your sentence, does it matter at what point of the day your point resonates?
For more advice on writing press releases, emails, presentations, backgrounders, annual reports and more, check out PR News' Writer's Guidebook Vol. 1:
Follow Brian Greene on Twitter: @bw_greene