Newsletter Signup


U is for Useless

Past history.
Final outcome.
Needless to say.

Redundant or useless words.  Whether you're drafting an email or the next New York Times bestseller, you should be on guard for phrases that can dull or weaken your writing. A recent article on the website Lifehacker by Melanie Pinola pointed out more than view examples:

That said or that being said.
I know you just said it. I just read or heard it.

As in "I literally shit my pants when he told me."
"That's terrible. You aren't still wearing those pants now are you? Were you able to wash them?"
"You shit them, literally, didn't you?"

Very unique.
Unique, meaning "one of a kind," is a binary condition. A thing cannot be "more one of a kind" than another thing.

Exactly the same as...
It's the same as, or it's not.

The reason why is because...
That one makes my head go boom. The reason my head goes boom is the redundancy. Because of the redundancy, my head goes boom. Why does my head go boom? Redundancy.

Advance planning
If you're planning, it's in advance.

Look ahead to the future.
Where else could the future be?

"In order to..."
Just use "to..."

True fact
Fact will do on its own, since there's no such thing as a false fact.

The fact that
Strunk & White point out this expression is particularly debilitating and you should edit it out everywhere you see it. For example: "I was unaware of the fact that" would be better as "I was unaware that" (or "I didn't know that"). Similarly, instead of "in spite of the fact that," just say "although."

Absolutely certain and Absolutely never
Certainty means without doubt, so you can get rid of "absolutely." Likewise, never is also absolute.

Author Diane Tibert says this is an unnecessary word 80% of the time and offers this example: "You should have seen the look on his face when I told him how sweet it was that he had sent you flowers. to You should have seen the look on his face when I told him how sweet it was he had sent you flowers."

Other words on her passive and redundant text red flags list include "very," "just," and "even."
Kind of, I think, basically, and similar words

These aren't useless or redundant words per se. They can be useful for adding an informal tone or for mixing up the rhythm of your sentences. As Judy Vorfeld writes, though, they can sometimes weaken sentences:

Old (adage, cliche, maxim, proverb, relic, saying)
You can drop "old" because that's implied.

Have any other examples?


  1. Hi Don - superfluous to our needs ... I know when I get to actually publish anything .. I will have to edit and read very carefully to avoid these useless cliches ... probably don't need the 'useless'?! Cheers Hilary

  2. Ha ha - most of these make my head go boom too :)

  3. I do a lot of cutting of unnecessary words when I edit. "That" is a major one I like for.

  4. There are lots of these little things to keep an eye out for. JUST is a big on for me. It always seems to be one of those things my characters just say and think.

  5. Wow! That's quite a list. I may just need to print this out as a reminder. I have a list of words that I do that 'select all' thing on in my edits just to find them and toss 'em. I would say that I can usually toss about about 95% of my 'thats' all of my 'justs' and maybe only about 25% of my 'evens' (I don't seem to use that one too much). You have covered some redundancies that I'm GUILTY of to a fault.




Blog Blitz

Design by: The Blog Decorator