I’m a firm advocate for getting your point across in as few words as possible. Today’s readers are more pressed for time than ever before, and as it relates to PR, reporters are bombarded by pitches all day, so the faster you can get to the point, the better.
Unfortunately, a lot of writers have a tendency to use redundant phrases that bog down their writing. Using unnecessary words doesn’t just make your press release, article, blog, email, etc. longer, it also makes it weaker and muddles the point you’re trying to make. Keeping your sentences crisp and clear adds punch to your writing, and helps get your point across more effectively.
I’ve come up with a list of 20 redundant phrases you should strive to eliminate from your writing.
1. Advance notice. When you give notice for something, you’re doing so in advance of the event taking place. Just use the word “notice.”
2. Advance preview. The dictionary defines preview as “anything that gives an advance idea or impression of something to come.” There’s no need to slap the word “advance” in front of it.
3. At the present time. Simply say either “at present” or “at this time.” There’s no need to be wordy.
4. Close proximity. The word proximity already means “close by,” so it doesn’t need to be qualified with the word “close.”
5. Collaborate together. You see this one a lot in press releases announcing partnerships or mergers. When you collaborate, you’re working with others. The word “together” is redundant.
6. Completely unanimous. Let’s go back to the dictionary, shall we? Unanimous: in complete agreement. That’s all you need.
7. End result. By definition, the result of something takes place at the end. Cut the word “end.”
8. Extra bonus. A bonus is something extra, so you don’t need to use that extra word (see what I did there?) to try to build excitement.
9. Final outcome. See #7.
10. Free gift. Nothing beats free. Thankfully, gifts are free.
11. Major breakthrough. This is another one you see in press releases and marketing materials. A breakthrough is something that provides a significant or sudden advance or development. Adding the word “major” is unnecessary.
12. New beginning. Leave it at “beginning.”
13. New innovation. Again, I can’t tell you how many press releases I’ve seen that use this phrase. An innovation is something new or different by definition. No need for the word “new.”
14. Past history. All history is in the past.
15. Positive improvement. As opposed to what, a negative improvement?
16. Repeat again. To repeat is to perform an action again, making the word “again” pointless.
17. Serious crisis. If you’ve ever faced a PR crisis (or any type of crisis), I don’t have to tell you that it’s serious. All crises are serious.
18. Totally unique. There aren’t degrees of unique. Something is either unique or it isn’t.
19. Unexpected surprise. If you’re expecting something to happen, it’s not a surprise.
20. Unintended mistake. If you intended for something to happen, it wasn’t a mistake; it was a poor decision.
What are some other redundant phrases that drive you nuts?
This article first appeared on Ragan.com in Sept. 2013.