Word Alert! Pompous Phrases Can Set an Arrogant Tone

With the spoken word, we have the privilege of adding voice intonation, hand gestures, and emotion with our vocal cords. That doesn’t happen as easily in writing. You might leave readers guessing about your intended meaning and risk setting a tone that can be misconstrued.

Does your writing come across as arrogant? Are you using pompous phrases? To avoid confusion, consider dropping the following idioms and phrases from your writing altogether. Not only will you convey your thoughts more directly, but your writing will gain clarity.

Question using these suspicious phrases in your writing:

  • Not to mention . . . (then why mention it at all?)
  • It goes without saying . . . (then why say it?)
  • If I may say so . . . (it’s your writing; of course, you may say so)
  • I believe that . . . (it’s your writing; of course, you believe it)
  • In my humble opinion . . . (what makes it humble, anyway?)
  • To tell the truth . . . (you mean you weren’t telling the truth?)
  • To be honest with you . . . (you weren’t being honest before?)
  • For the record . . . (are we in court?)
  • Let me be perfectly clear . . . (followed by bafflegab)
  • This may sound stupid but . . . (it already sounds stupid)
  • With all due respect . . . (prefacing a negative comment this way doesn’t change it)

One More Phrase: “In Other Words”

Another oh-too-common phrase to question is “in other words.” Why? Because it often introduces a clarifying sentence that follows a mediocre one. Instead of adding a sentence, go back and strengthen the first sentence. Then you might not even need a follow-up clarifying one. Test this idea in your own work.

Ultimately, you strive for clear, intentional expressions of your thoughts and beliefs in everything you write. Don’t let phrases such as these get in the way!

Barbara McNichol is passionate about helping administrative professionals add power to their pen. To assist in this mission, she has created a Word Trippers Tips resource to quickly find the right word when it matters most. It allows you to improve your writing through weekly resources in your inbox, including a webinar, crossword puzzles, and a Word Tripper of the Week for 52 weeks. Enjoy a $30 discount at checkout with the code ODI at www.wordtrippers.com/odi.


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