Simple, clear help for your writing problems

Writing Problems Heard Lately

I’ve attended a few programs lately where people have delivered prepared speeches. Sadly, several of those speeches have suffered from distracting writing problems. People asked to speak extemporaneously often stammer incomprehensible nonsense, but that’s easy to forgive: it’s hard to think on your feet in front of a crowd. On the other hand, when you deliver a speech that you wrote in advance, there is no excuse for being incoherent. Don’t let your writing problems ruin your speeches.

In Addition…

In one program I attended, a speaker was describing accomplishments of an honoree. After listing two or three accomplishments, the speaker used the following transition: In addition, he also performs in…

The statement contains redundant words. The speaker should have said, In addition, he performs… or, He also performs in…

Are You Married to Your Spouse?

How often have you heard a declaration similar to this? I’m Susie and I’m married to my husband Jim. Oh! My! Goodness! I’m Susie, and my husband’s name is Jim. How hard was that? If you don’t like it, try, I’m Susie, and I’m married to Jim. Please trust you listeners to figure out that you’re married to your husband! Last time I checked, that was part of the definition of being married… or of being a husband.

 

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Nonsense Expressions

Here’s a quick look at some silly writing problems. There are many phrases that people abuse in both conversation and in writing. Maybe you use these phrases in your writing. If you do, stop! When you use them, you sound stupid to some readers, you lose credibility, and you may drive people away. When you don’t use these phrases, no one misses them.

Gather Together

Do you say gather together? For example:Gather everyone together in conference room B.” Sounds familiar, no? I defy you to explain: how can you gather anything other than together? The statement Gather everyone in conference room B is clear. Get everyone together is also clear. Gather everyone together is redundant. Stop saying it.

Connect Together

Because it’s so similar to gather together, You’ve probably already seen the silliness in this expression: Use the striped cable to connect the devices together. You can’t connect the devices apart… so don’t waste the word together. Say Use the striped cable to connect the devices.

Close Proximity

This phrase must have arisen one day when someone wanted to sound authoritative: We have determined that the perpetrator lives in close proximity to the shopping district. The word proximity means closeness, so that authoritative genius actually said, We have determined that the perpetrator lives in close closeness to the shopping district. The sentence is silly and it’s needlessly stuffy; I’d rewrite it to say The perpetrator lives near the shopping district. If you never again use the word proximity, your writing will be better for it. But if you must use proximity, never use it in the phrase close proximity.

Successfully Complete

Consider the meaning of this statement: Larry Ainge successfully completed the tasks we assigned him. If Larry completed the tasks, then he must have been successful. Can you claim that Larry unsuccessfully completed a task? Logically, if he was unsuccessful, he didn’t complete it. Simplify your writing. Larry completed the tasks we assigned him. Or, Larry succeeded with the tasks we assigned him.

Could Care Less

Please eliminate this expression from your writing and your speech. If you mean that you don’t care even a little bit, then you couldn’t care less. The statement I could care less clearly means that you care—and it provides little sense of how much. When you say I could care less, you sound ignorant—as though you don’t know how meaningless the expression is; people might assume the ignorance extends to other topics besides how much you care.

Have You Done This Before?

When you ask someone, Have you seen this movie before? you’re encouraging them to wonder: When else could I have seen the movie? If you saw the movie, you saw it before. Toss before from sentences that already say it: Have you seen this movie? or I’ve never been here.

Compare with Each Other

Here’s a sentence that sounds innocent—and it’s even forgivable: Compare the two financial plans with each other. Were you to say Compare the two financial plans, nearly every reader would understand they should compare the plans to each other. The statement introduces risk that a rare individual might wonder: Compare the plans with what? That’s a risk you should take to improve your writing.

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