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Seven Phrases to Avoid


Excellent writing conveys concepts succinctly while avoiding redundancy. When speaking aloud, we frequently use words or phrases that do not translate well on the page. We do this to create a rapport with our audience. However, when transcribed verbatim, these phrases clutter the page and make reading difficult. Making the transition from the spoken word to the written one is often challenging, but not impossible.
In almost all cases, writers should avoid using the following seven words or phrases:

  • Needless to Say.

    If something is truly “needless to say,” why is it being said? In speech, phrases such as these serve a rhetorical function. In prose, this phrase is awkward and interrupts the flow of the piece.

  • Clearly.

    Many speakers emphasize a point they are making by tacking “clearly” onto the beginning of a sentence. Unfortunately, this only serves to undermine his or her point. If something is clear, it does not require elaboration.

  • Obviously.

    In the same vein as “clearly,” “obviously,” is overused and ill-applied in amateur writing. Appropriate adverb usage is a skill that few writers naturally possess. A good way to start using adverbs appropriately is to see if the sentence can function without them.

  • That’s Just My Opinion.

    This phrase has a certain rhetorical punch when spoken aloud, but is virtually always unnecessary when written down. Signing one’s name is proof of ownership of the content contained within an article or essay. While an author should always distinguish between quoted material versus personal opinion, citation marks are a far more elegant method of source attribution.

  • If You Know What I Mean.

    Many writers who have primarily been orators find the written word’s lack of immediate response stifling. Invariably, their prose is littered with phrases that call out to the reader for some kind of vocal reaction. Unfortunately, these phrases make the writer look desperate or foolish. Readers engage with the author by following his or her train of thought, not by joining in mass applause. Writers sometimes use this phrase because they are having trouble clearly expressing a thought or concept, and hope to smooth over this difficulty by incorporating this trite phrase. It will not work. The reader will experience confusion and then alienation once they realize that they don’t “know what you mean.” Work on stating concepts directly. Don’t attempt a cover up, no matter how tempting it may seem.

  • Slang

    Many new writers cram their work with slang. While some established writers are able to integrate slang meaningfully into their work, they’ve had years of practice. New writers should omit slang and focus on keeping it as simple as possible. If the topic of the assignment is slang, use quotation marks. Do not attempt to integrate the slang into the piece. It will often come across as stilted or inadvertently hilarious.

  • Just Like That. (Fragments)

    Every sentence needs a subject and a verb. In speech, emphatic fragments are frequently used which do not translate on the page. While experienced writers may occasionally use a fragment for effect, new writers should avoid them. Check each sentence to make sure it is complete.

    Writers improve their craft over time. Editing and re-writing are always a part of the writing process. Be patient!


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