One ques­tion I hate is “What is your gram­mar pet peeve”. I hate it because there are so many gram­mar faux pas that it is dif­fi­cult for me to pick only one.

I will say this though: one thing that great­ly irri­tates me is super­flu­ous­ness. I pre­fer lan­guage that deliv­ers the mes­sage using as few words as pos­si­ble.

Here are 4 com­mon phras­es struc­tures I fre­quent­ly come across in my edit­ing work:

1. A num­ber of

I don’t under­stand why this is such a pop­u­lar phrase. It’s non­spe­cif­ic and while peo­ple think it means one thing it doesn’t mean any­thing. For exam­ple, “a num­ber of apples” could sim­ply mean 1 apple; after all, one is a num­ber. Use sev­er­al instead.

2. Peri­od of time

As com­pared to a peri­od of ketchup? Peri­od, by it’s very def­i­n­i­tion, means “a length of time dur­ing which a series of events or an action takes place or is com­plet­ed”. When you put it that way, “peri­od of time” means “time of time”. Just use peri­od.

3. Currently/now

If you’re speak­ing in the present tense, using words like “cur­rent­ly” or “now” is redun­dant. Speak­ing in the present implies what you’re say­ing is cur­rent or in the now.

4. Present pro­gres­sive instead of sim­ple present

The present pro­gres­sive tense (e.g. I am walk­ing) has its place, but too often peo­ple use it when the sim­ple present (e.g. I walk) would suf­fice. Com­pare the fol­low­ing:

  • Each week, we ensure that our depart­ments are work­ing well.
  • Each week, we ensure that our depart­ments work well.

Being able to catch wordi­ness in writ­ing takes time and lots of prac­tice, but these 4 steps can give you a head start.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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