Field Guide to Concise Language

In the quest for clear writing, clunky phrases are like a field of poppies—slowing your readers down and putting them to sleep. Some of these phrases are redundant, some are jargony, and some are needlessly formal. To streamline your writing and enhance readability, prune these phrases ruthlessly.

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12:00 noon noon
6-month period 6 months
a large proportion of many
a number of some, several
able to can
absolutely essential essential
acquainted with know
acted as was
actual experience experience
adequate enough adequate
adjacent to next to
advance planning planning
advance warning warning
added bonus bonus
afford an opportunity allow, let
any and all all
as a means of to
at such time as when
a majority of most
are in possession of have
as prescribed by under
at this point in time now, today
at your earliest convenience soon
basic fundamentals basics, fundamentals
be responsible for handle
best ever best
brief summary summary
by means of by
classify into groups classify
close proximity proximity
consensus of opinion consensus
consequently so
current trends trends
despite the fact that although
deteriorate in quality deteriorate
due to the fact that because
during the course of during
during the time that while
each and every each
eliminate altogether eliminate
emergency situation emergency
end result result
estimated at about estimated at
exact same same
failed to didn’t
final outcome outcome
final conclusion conclusion
first and foremost first
first of all first
follow after follow
for a period of for
for all intents and purposes
for the purpose of to
forward initiative plan
functioned as was
furthermore then
future plans plans
give an affirmative answer to say yes to, agree to
has the function of being is
have a need for need
hold a meeting meet
if conditions are such that if
in a timely manner promptly
in accordance with by, under
in addition also
in an effort to to
in conjunction with with
in many cases often
in order to to
in regard to about
in spite of the fact that although
in the case of if
in the course of during, in
in the event that if
in the nature of like
in the near future soon
in the neighborhood of about
in the vicinity of near
in this day and age today
in view of because
in light of the fact that because
inasmuch as because
incumbent upon must
is capable of can
is deficient in lacks
is in a position to can
is of the opinion that believes
issue a reminder remind
it is essential must
it is recommended we recommend
join together join
it should be noted that note
liaise with talk to
limited number few
make an announcement announce
make a statement say, state
mission-critical critical
new innovation innovation
no later than by
on a [daily, weekly, monthly] basis daily, weekly, monthly
on a regular basis regularly
past experience experience
past history history
pertaining to about
please be advised that note
point in time point
prior to before
provides guidance for guides
provided that if
reason for why
reason is because reason is
regular routine routine
responsible for managing manages
serious crisis crisis
similar to like
state of the art latest, current
strategic alliance alliance
take action to do
take into consideration consider
trained professional professional
until such time as until
wide range of many
with reference to about, regarding
with the exception of except for

Sources:
Einsohn, Amy. The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications. University of California
Press, 2011.
Garner, Bryan A. HBR Guide to Better Business Writing. Harvard Business Review Press, 2012.
Stoughton, Mary. Substance & Style: Instruction and Practice in Copyediting. EEI Books, 1996.
Lohfeld, Bob. “100 Words Never to Use in Proposals.” Lohfeld Consulting.

This post is part of a series featuring Dragonfly field guides, tips, and tricks. You can download the PDF file here. Feel free to share!

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