16 Redundant Phrases You Should Simplify in Your Writing

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a list taken from the Elevate – Brain Training app of common phrases that are unnecessarily wordy and should be edited out of most writers’ first drafts. Continuing on that theme, today I’d like to share another list of phrases from a similar Elevate game, Brevity, this time of redundant phrases that should be simplified for conciseness. Redundancy is another common plague of first drafts, so you can never know too many tips for making your writing as clear and concise as possible!

So for your reference, here are 16 redundant phrases you should simplify while editing your writing. Enjoy!

1) Empty space: Space, by definition, is an unoccupied area, so the word “empty” is redundant. Simplify “empty space” to “space”.

2) Evil fiend/villain: The word “fiend” or “villain” already implies said person is evil. Simplify “evil fiend” to “fiend” or “evil villain” to “villain”.

3) First and foremost: An unnecessarily long phrase to indicate something that is most important. Simplify “first and foremost” to “first”.

4) Follow after: To follow already means to go or come after someone or something. Simplify “follow after” to “follow”.

5) HIV virus: HIV stands for “human immunodeficiency virus”, so the word “virus” is redundant. Simplify “HIV virus” to “HIV”.

6) In order to: A longer and less direct way of saying “to”. Simplify “in order to” to “to”.

7) Join together: To join means to connect two things to each other, making the word “together” redundant. Simplify “join together” to “join”.

8) None at all: None, by definition, means not any, so the phrase “at all” is unnecessary. Simplify “none at all” to “none”.

9) LCD display: LCD stands for “liquid crystal display”, so the word “display” is redundant. Simplify “LCD display” to “LCD”.

10) Might possibly: Both “might” and “possibly” indicate uncertainty of an event taking place. Simplify “might possibly” to “might”.

11) Past experience: Experience already indicates knowledge gained in the past. Simplify “past experience” to “experience”.

12) Please RSVP: RSVP stands for the French expression “répondez s’il vous plaît”, or “please reply” in English, making the word “please” redundant. Simplify “please RSVP” to “RSVP”.

13) PIN number: PIN stands for “personal identification number”, so the word “number” is redundant. Simplify “PIN number” to “PIN”.

14) Terrible disaster: A disaster is an event that causes great damage, making the adjective “terrible” unnecessary. Simplify “terrible disaster” to “disaster”.

15) Totally destroyed: To be destroyed is to be completely ruined, so the adverb “totally” is unneeded. Simplify “totally destroyed” to “destroyed”.

16) Unsolved mystery: A mystery is already an unexplained or unsolved event. Simplify “unsolved mystery” to “mystery”.

Are you guilty of using any of these phrases in your writing? What other redundant phrases would you add to this list?

Word of the Week: Terraform

Word: terraform

Pronunciation: TE-rə-form

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: transform a planet so as to resemble the earth, especially so that it can support human life

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Earth Day was this past weekend, but I’d still like to acknowledge the date one more time with a related vocabulary word. I learned today’s Word of the Week from watching my boyfriend play Elite: Dangerous, a space exploration game scaled to scientifically accurate proportions. Every once in a while, he discovers a water world on his travels through the galaxy, and scanning it will reveal, among other data, whether the planet can be modified to become habitable. These are naturally the most valuable planets when exchanging data for in-game credits; a world that humans could “terraform” would be the ultimate treasure of space!

To “terraform” a planet would be to transform it to resemble Earth, especially with the purpose of supporting human life. This word was coined in 1942 by the science fiction author Jack Williamson, who first used the term in his short story “Collision Orbit”, published in Astounding Science Fiction magazine. The verb comprises the Latin noun terra “earth” and the suffix -form “having the shape of”.

Given its hypothetical nature, the word “terraform” is especially popular in science fiction, but it does have a place in real science as well. The potential colonization of Mars, for example, is a subject that often ties in with the concept of “terraforming“, as altering the planet’s surface and climate would make it hospitable to human beings. The idea is so fascinating and has so many possibilities, it’s really no wonder that it’s such a popular subject in sci-fi stories and scientific debates alike! If you write science fiction about the transformation and colonization of extraterrestrial worlds, “terraform” is a must-use word for your stories!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

What If? Writing Prompts: Nature V

Earth Day is this Saturday, and that means it’s time for some new “What If?” Writing Prompts! This week’s post features yet another batch of prompts in the theme of nature and environmentalism. See what stories you can spin from these ideas, and feel free to add more of your own! Enjoy!

What if… there were only one way to save the environment from total destruction… and it came at the price of half the global human population?

What if… human beings were the only animals in the world?

What if… all the trees in the world disappeared?

What if… every food source on the planet became sustainable?

What if… all major sources of carbon emission on Earth suddenly stopped?

Good luck writing more environmentalist stories!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

Word of the Week: Prognosticate

Word: prognosticate

Pronunciation: prahɡ-NAH-stə-kayt

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: foretell or prophesy an event in the future

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Today’s vocabulary entry is about another word I happened to pick up from Oxford Dictionaries‘ Word of the Day list. Though I’ve long been familiar with “prognostic” and “prognosis”, it was interesting to stumble upon a verb form of these words. Funny how hard it is for me to “prognosticate” what strange new words will make it into my Word of the Week segment!

To “prognosticate” a future event is to prophesy or foretell it. The word arose in late Middle English and comes from the Latin verb prognosticare, meaning “to make a prediction”. This word traces back through the adjective prognosticus to the Greek adjective prognōstikós “foreknowing”, which in turn comprises the prefix pro- “before” and the adjective gnōstikós “knowing”.

As mentioned above, the verb “prognosticate” is related to the adjective “prognostic” (meaning “serving to predict the likely outcome of a disease or ailment”) and the noun “prognosis” (meaning “the likely course of a disease or ailment”). Note that despite their primary use as medical terms, both these words can function as nouns indicating the prediction of future events, though this sense for “prognostic” has become archaic in modern use. If your characters often make predictions about the future, “prognosticate” may be a good word to add to your vocabulary!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

14 Wordy Phrases You Should Edit Out of Your Writing

If you’ve been writing for most of your life, you’ll probably agree that editing is the hardest part of the craft. For those of us who take our art seriously, the joy of creation is always followed by the challenge of polishing, which can be especially difficult for those of us who deal with the many rules of English. One of the most common mistakes inexperienced writers make is using unnecessarily wordy phrases in their first drafts, which is why the Elevate – Brain Training app includes a game called Clarity, an exercise that teaches players how to simplify said phrases to improve the flow of their writing. I’ve learned quite a few editing tips from this game, and I think you might find them useful too!

So for your reference, here are 14 wordy phrases you should eliminate from your writing during the editing phase. Enjoy!

1) As long as: a common phrase used to indicate that something will happen under a certain condition. Simplify “as long as” with “if”.

2) At the end of: indicates something that is last or that follows something else. “Simplify “at the end of” with “after”.

3) Draw attention to: refers to someone or something that deserves notice. Simplify “draw attention to” with “highlight”.

4) Give an indication of: implies a hint or a glimpse of something. Simplify “give an indication of” with “indicate” or “reveal”.

5) Have an effect on: the passive form of the verb “affect”. Simplify “have an effect on” with “affect” or “influence”.

6) Hold a conference: passive phrase meaning to gather people to talk. Simplify “hold a conference” with “confer”.

7) In conjunction: indicates two events that are connected. Simplify “in conjunction” with “along”.

8) Not the same: negative phrase indicating something that differs from a given subject. Simplify “not the same” with “different”.

9) Notwithstanding the fact: redundant when the fact is explained in the sentence. Simplify “notwithstanding the fact” with “although”.

10) Owing to the fact: also redundant when the fact is already explained. Simplify “owing to the fact” with “because”.

11) Relating to: indicates something related to a given subject. Simplify “relating to” with “about”.

12) Spell out: informal phrase meaning to describe something in detail. Simplify “spell out” with “explain”.

13) Take action: the passive form of the verb “act”. Simplify “take action” with “act”.

14) There is a chance it will: lengthy phrase used to indicate that something might happen. Simplify “there is a chance it will” with “it may”.

Are you guilty of using any of these phrases? What other wordy phrases would you add to this list?

Word of the Week: Laud

Word: laud

Pronunciation: LAHD

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: praise a person or their achievements highly, especially in a public context

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s another word that’s overdue to appear on my blog, since I learned it a long time ago from studying vocabulary flashcards. Since first reading it years ago, I’ve seen it used several times in reference to people deserving of praise, mostly those in the public eye. When simply “praising” someone isn’t formal enough, you can always “laud” their accomplishments instead!

To “laud” a person or their achievements is to praise them highly, especially in public. The word arose in late Middle English and traces back through the Old French verb laude to the Latin verb laudare, meaning “to praise”. This verb stems from the noun laus, which means “glory”.

Aside from its primary use as a verb, “laud” can also function as a noun to mean “praise” or a “hymn of praise”, though this sense has become archaic in modern language. The word is classified as formal in Oxford Dictionaries, making it most appropriate for formal writing, but I believe it can work just as well in certain stories depending on the author’s writing style. A common derivative of this word is the adjective “laudable”, meaning “deserving praise and commendation”. If your characters’ achievements are often worthy of praise, “laud” may be a good word to include in your vocabulary!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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