3 Cases of Superfluous Wording

By Mark Nichol

Certain types of words that may be of no use nevertheless often stealthily make their way into sentences like gate crashers. In conversation, to mix metaphors, they serve as pothole fillers, meaningless placeholders that allow speakers to gather their thoughts and navigate an extemporaneous statement without stumbling before the finish line, but in writing they are expendable. The discussion after each sentence below describes why one or more words in the example do not contribute to the construction of the statement; revisions demonstrate how the sentences stand just as well without the omitted words.

1. More than half of all companies are currently pursuing some form of major information-technology transformation.

Currently, which echoes the present-tense verbs it invariably is associated with, is rarely necessary or helpful; retain it only if it clarifies an ambiguous statement (in which case an alternative solution is to revise the statement to eliminate the ambiguity): “More than half of all companies are pursuing some form of major information-technology transformation.”

2. Management must then determine whether or not the activities for recording, accumulating, and summarizing material information are designed and operating effectively.

Some writers don’t realize that the second and third word in “whether or not” should almost always be omitted. Others know this but automatically write it without noticing or don’t know when it is valid and when it is not. However, a simple test exists—if “whether or not” can be replaced by “regardless of whether,” the usage is valid, but if the phrase can be replaced by if, “or not” is extraneous: “Management must then determine whether the activities for recording, accumulating, and summarizing material information are designed and operating effectively.”

3. We have managed projects for both healthcare providers as well as medical-device manufacturers.

Sometimes the solution is revision rather than omission. For example, in this sentence, “as well as” is redundant to both, so retain one or the other, but not both: “We have managed projects for both healthcare providers and medical-device manufacturers” or “We have managed projects for healthcare providers as well as medical-device manufacturers.”

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1 Response to “3 Cases of Superfluous Wording”

  • Dale A. Wood

    “Currently” and “presently” are also excessive – three syllables long – where “now” would do. These polysyllabic words are “bureaucratese” and the language of chrome-domes.
    I am sorry for the long word “bureaucratese” where “goop”, “bunk”, “dung”, “junk”, or “trash”, would do. (Maybe even “manure”.)

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