Style Matters #21: Time to expunge misused, redundant words


There many words in everyday language that are redundant – or, at best, misused – in newswriting or, for that matter, in other writing genres.

In an earlier post, we looked at the misuse of decimate. Now let’s look first at some other words that should raise a “red flag” for writers.

  • very

this word, which ironically has as one of its meanings precise, is more often imprecise when used as a qualifier (what does very pregnant or very angry really mean?)

  • unique

we tend to forget this word means being the only one of its kind or unlike anything else and, therefore, should not be preceded by any sort of qualifier, so most unique, very unique, somewhat unique or sometimes unique are errors of expression, when better words to use in its place would be individual or rare

  • perfection

like unique, perfection is an ultimate or absolute notion that means free from flaws and should not be preceded by any sort of qualifier, including absolute

  • currently/at the present time

why use these lengthier ways of saying now?

  • presently

this word means after a short period or soon, and is often misused to mean now

  • self-confessed

use of the word confessed means that someone has publicly accepted their guilt and, in law, no one can confess for someone else, so self- is a superfluous prefix

Then there are a whole host of short phrases that fall off our tongues too easily in conversation but should not migrate on to the page or the screen. Here are just some to watch out for:

  • (armed) gunmen
  • (added) bonus
  • (new) initiative
  • (close) proximity
  • consensus (of opinion)
  • (free) gift
  • revert (back)
  • visible (to the eye)
  • evolve (over time)
  • (dead) corpses
  • (completely) destroyed

To see many more examples, see the Grammar & Composition webpages.


If you like what you’ve read here, you can see reporting4work’s similar posts at Style Matters

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