30 Wordy Phrases Beginning with “In”

By Mark Nichol

Among the scores of verbose constructions that can be whittled down (usually) to one word with no loss of, and often with a net gain in, clarity are those phrases in the following sentences beginning with in.

The replacement words are not necessarily the only (or the best) choices, and the sentences could be further refined, but employ this list to help you be on the lookout for — that is, be aware of — phrases like the ones presented below. They need not be automatically excised, but examine your writing for an abundance of such prolixity, and revise at your discretion.

1.
Please submit your report in advance of the meeting.
Please submit your report before the meeting.

2.
We received a check in the amount of $1,000.
We received a check for $1,000.

3.
We’re implementing this policy in an effort to streamline our process.
We’re implementing this policy to streamline our process.

4.
Which section is this question in connection with?
Which section is this question about?

5.
Do not use in excess of the recommended dosage.
Do not use more than the recommended dosage.

6.
Are you in favor of the new system, or do you oppose it?
Are you for the new system, or do you oppose it?

7.
Use Form BFF in lieu of Form OMG.
Use Form BFF instead of Form OMG.

8-9.
Improvement will be noted in most cases (or instances).
Improvement will usually be noted.

10.
They have changed the procedure in order to reduce the necessary steps.
They have changed the procedure to reduce the necessary steps.

11.
She is attending the meeting in place of her vacationing supervisor.
She is attending the meeting for her vacationing supervisor.

12.
I am in possession of damning evidence.
I have damning evidence.

13.
They are in proximity to the epicenter.
They are close to the epicenter.

14.
We are in receipt of your letter.
We received your letter.

15-17.
I wasn’t sure what the question was in reference to (or regard to or in relation to).
I wasn’t sure what the question was about.

18.
You will notice these side effects in some instances.
You will sometimes notice these side effects.

19.
In spite of the fact that the box was clearly labeled, he could not find it.
Although the box was clearly labeled, he could not find it.

20.
In terms of reducing costs, the strategy has been a failure.
The strategy has been a failure in reducing costs.

21.
In the absence of Smith as manager, Jones was left in charge.
Without Smith as manager, Jones was left in charge.

22.
In the case of duplication, rename the older file and place it in the Archive folder.
If duplication occurs, rename the older file and place it in the Archive folder.

23.
We were speaking in the context of yesterday’s discussion.
We were speaking about yesterday’s discussion.

24.
In the course of the session, little progress was made.
During the session, little progress was made.

25.
In the event that no decision is made, the current procedure will remain in effect.
If no decision is made, the current procedure will remain in effect.

26.
In the final analysis, it is up to us to decide.
Ultimately, it is up to us to decide.

27.
He will return in the near future.
He will return soon.

28.
It took in the neighborhood of two weeks to complete.
It took about two weeks to complete.

29.
They are in the vicinity of the headquarters now.
They are near the headquarters now.

30.
In view of the fact that you suggested it, I think you should propose it.
Because you suggested it, I think you should propose it.

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17 Responses to “30 Wordy Phrases Beginning with “In””

  • Brian Wasko

    Wow, Mark. This is fantastic. When I read the headline, I thought, “30? Really? No way.” But as I went down the list, I recognized every example. I work with teen writers and I’ll be referencing this list often. Thanks. I don’t know how you do stuff like this, but I’m glad you do.

  • Chioma

    Thanks, Mark. I don’t usually notice things like these, but this is a great list.
    However, I’m thinking that perhaps the first form of #20 conveys a clearer meaning than the second….

  • Rachel Berdan

    I fully agree with the sentiment behind this. We writers can always stand to tighten up our work. I am very guilty of over-writing, especially when I am not 100% confident about my message.

    While I recognize that these are simply examples to demonstrate a useful guideline, I would highlight that #20 simply swapped one “in” statement for another. Perhaps, to better demonstrate the point, the appropriate change would be: The strategy has failed to reduce costs.

    There were a couple of other examples that I took issue with, as well. Specifically, #7 actually becomes physically longer by using “instead” over “in lieu” and #11 becomes muddied as it can now be interpreted as a meeting in honour of the supervisor as opposed to one attended in place of the supervisor. In the latter case, the incorrect interpretation would be a silly one, but still possible.

    The critical points aside, I agree that we should all look for opportunities to simplify our writing. We have gone from a culture of paying by the word to one of information overload and short attention spans, and we must adjust.

  • Andrew Paschetto

    “Instead” is a compound of “in” and “stead”, as “in his stead”. Thus, “in lieu” and “instead” are identical constructs. Also, an even better reduction of “Are you in favor of the new system…” is “Do you favor the new system, or oppose it?” The verb construct is consistent in both segments of the question this way.

  • Roberta B.

    Great list! I try to keep my reports clear, simple, and easy to understand, but I’m frequently guilty of using many of these wordy phrases. One of my favorites is “….in accordance with…” some particular rule, policy, or plan. I didn’t see an example for simplifying that one.

  • Brian Meeks

    Wonderful list. 🙂 (I was going to write more, but I was afraid) Must practice bevity.

  • shirley in berkeley

    Thanks for a very good list, and one that will make me look twice at some of the tired old constructions we’ve all become used to. A couple of (the inevitable) quibbles:

    11.
    She is attending the meeting in place of her vacationing supervisor.
    She is attending the meeting for her vacationing supervisor.
    (Sounds like it’s a meeting for her vacationing supervisor.)

    20.
    In terms of reducing costs, the strategy has been a failure.
    The strategy has been a failure in reducing costs.
    (The strategy has failed to reduce costs.)

  • Oliver Lawrence

    Great stuff, but brevity mustn’t be at the expense of clarity – in #10, for example, “…the procedure to…” could be interpreted as meaning “…the procedure for doing …”, so on first reading, some people may have to backtrack if they fall into the trap left by the potential ambiguity of the construction.

  • Nelida K.

    Nice post; Mark. However, in example Nr. #7 “in lieu” = “instead” seems to be merely a matter of preference, as “instead” also uses the “in” prefix.

    @Roberta B.: Maybe “under”, or “as per”, or “according to”. Also “pursuant to”, but this tends to be dismissed as legalese.

  • Nelida K.

    Oops. I meant: Nice post, Mark. (I wouldn’t want to be accused of murdering punctuation). 🙂

  • Imran Siddiq

    I am all for concise-to-the-point messages.
    Far too often I have to read waffle.
    Great Post.

  • W van Staden

    Thanks for the post. Some of those point an accusative finger right at me.

    I’ll also have a go at extending the list of quibbles:

    In no. 18 the second form introduces an ambiguity: the side effects may be there, but you will only notice them sometimes. The first form could indicate that the side effects may only occur sometimes.

    No. 26 seems to be similar: it may change a time specific event, from deciding during the final analysis, to deciding after the final analysis. But I am willing to concede that I may be wrong here.

    wvs

  • Amandah

    Thanks for the reminder to write clear and concise sentences. Sometimes, writers can be too wordy. BTW: I prefer it when people get to ‘the bottom’ line.

  • Mark MacKay

    Indeed. In spite of my bad writing habits I am in the process of reducing the number of times I’m in the mood to use phrases starting with “in.”

  • shirley in berkeley

    All in all, a good post.

  • Enas

    Many many thanks
    am really use them always at my work therefore please if your goodself have more – please send it to me
    as i face problmes to write a formal emails and letters all the time.

    Thank you

  • Sandokan

    This is really a helpful list for non-native speakers of English because we tend to follow naively what native speakers say and write.

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