Extra Words? Stop it!
I know there are far bigger issues in the world today, but this one may be the most annoying.
There's a disturbing trend in communication over the past couple of decades, as people continue to find ways to add useless words to conversation. We hear it from people in the media, in the workplace and on the street. If these people would take a moment to think about what they're saying, I'm sure they would do things differently. Words have meaning.
I now cringe a little when I hear extra words added to communication and have compiled a list of the biggest offenders.
Little Words - Big Offenders
The biggest offender when it comes to adding extra words in conversation normally comes in the form of short words that are four letters or less in length.
They’re words such as “out”, “up”, “down” and “off”.
Let me give a few examples that I heard from media people. A radio talk show host was talking about a politician who had “Tweeted out” his thoughts on a particular issue. The word “out” isn’t necessary. The host also asked people to “text in” their opinions on a matter. Asking them to text him their thoughts would have worked better. I also heard a radio traffic reporter talking about how an accident had caused the “left-hand lane to be closed down by police.” She should have simply reported that the left lane had been closed by police. Left is the same as left-hand and closed is the same as closed down.
There’s a long list of others. I sometimes hear people working in offices talking about “printing off” a document. The word off is totally unnecessary. I once heard this sentence “Sorry I couldn’t print off the document because the photocopier had broken down.” That’s called the Daily Double because the person managed to get two useless words into the same sentence. See if you can pick them out.
Then there’s the classic two word phrase about a person “cleaning up” a mess. Cleaning a mess works just as well unless there’s a difference between “cleaning up” a mess and “cleaning down” a mess that I’ve missed.
Mind you, in some cases the word “up” needs to be used. When referring to robbers who “held up” a bank it works quite well.
Then there’s the classic “We decided to change it up”. I guess that’s different than “change it down”.
I had this interesting conversation with a tradesperson who came to repair our hot water tank last winter. He said, “If the sensor goes again, we’ll just change it out for you.” I replied “You mean you’ll replace it”? “Yes” he said “We’ll change it out”. I didn’t want to explain that the word “out” wasn’t needed because I was paying by the hour.
I blame sports announcers for most of the problems with adding words, perhaps because they have a lot of time to fill as they do commendatory. That’s where I first heard the phrase “often times”, as in “Often times you’ll see a player returning from injury….”
It certainly doesn’t end there though. One of the most annoying words that gets added to sentences is “long”, as in “all game long”, or “all season long.” Dropping the word “long” leaves us with “all game” or “all season”, which both work nicely. I think the word “long” gets added because it makes the statement sound stronger. I really don’t think “all game long” sounds more impactful than “all game”, but there must be a reason for it.
The other sports jargon that bugs me is adding the words “all of” to a statement, as in “He’s the best pitcher in all of baseball”, instead of “He’s the best pitcher in baseball.” Two tiny words can’t make that much of a difference, so why use them?
I recently heard TSN play-by-play announcer Rod Black exclaim “This game has had a great ebb and flow back and forth.” That’s what ebb and flow is Rod, so the second part of the statement becomes redundant.
Sports announcers also like to throw in the word “aforementioned” once in awhile. The only time I ever hear the word aforementioned is from a sports guy. It’s much like the word “repechage” that we only hear every couple of years at Olympic events.
Why Do We Do It?
The question needs to be seriously asked – Why does this happen?
Do people add these words because it makes their statement sound better or more important? Or is it simply because they hear them in media and start using them?
A great example is the current practice of so many people to start a sentence with the word “so” as they try to explain something as in “So……the reason we decided not to go is….” Where did this come from? The word “so” is supposed to be used as a connecting word to link two different but connecting phrases, as in “John got ill, so we decided not to go.” Somehow many people have taken the word “so” and added it to the front of the sentence. When I do a media or communications training session and point this out, it’s amazing how many times it comes up throughout the day. People will start a sentence with the word “so” and are reminded how often it now happens.
I know there are more important issues than being concerned about extra words people use in communication and I’m far from perfect, but I do wish people would start thinking about how they say things because it can make a difference in how they’re regarded by others.
Words have meaning and how they’re used is important too.
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