Poor communication impacts marketing and sales. It slows down business processes and it can cause potential customers to bounce from your website, drop your brochure in the trash, or simply lose interest in doing business with you. Poor language use can make your brand look bad.
So here it is: my latest list of redundant, self-obviating, overwritten or simply not-a-real-word words. These are torn straight from the pages of memos, websites and media across the business universe. And no, I am not a Grammar Nazi or the Word Police. There are many instances, such as copy for ads, when intentional improper use of the language actually has more impact. All of these examples, however, come from materials where the improper use was not intentional.
Are you guilty of using any of these?
Please add your own favorites along with your snarky commentary.
Active possibility – If it’s not one of the viable (active) alternatives, then it’s not a possibility. Just use “possibility.”
Actual facts – As opposed to made-up facts…
Adults over 21 – I don’t know many children over 21 (although I do know many childish adults).
All except – It’s like being a little pregnant. It’s either all or it is not all.
Almost exactly – Don’t make me repeat myself (see entry above).
All-time record – If it’s a record, it’s for all time unless it is specifically qualified, such as “… the record for most yards since the AFL-NFL merger.”
Always consistent – Well, of course. You can’t be intermittently consistent.
Armed gunman – You’re not much of a gunman if you’re not armed.
Captured alive – If they’re not captured alive then it’s really just a clean-up.
Completely empty – This one has a mirror-image phrase, “partially full.” Something is either empty or full, or it is partially filled.
Completely surrounded (surrounds) – If it’s not complete, then it’s not surrounded.
De-install – This is not a word, folks. “Uninstall” if you’re talking about technology (such as software), otherwise the word you’re looking for is “remove.”
Dialoguing – You can have a dialog. Otherwise, you are talking or conversing. Trust me, you are not dialoguing. (Yes, it’s in some dictionaries. That doesn’t make it a good word to use.)
Each and every one of you – “Each” means “every one of you.” Duh.
Exact same – If it’s not exact then it isn’t the same, it’s “similar.”
Filmed before a live studio audience – Because filming before dead people or zombies is dull or dangerous, depending on the audience. (Yes, I know this is very specific and it’s generally spoken, but it annoys the crap out of me every time.)
Final destination – Redundancy Police! If it’s not final, then it’s just a stop along the way.
First time ever – Adding “ever” doesn’t make this any more “first” than simply writing “first.”
Foreign imports – Despite Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” ad campaign, all imports are foreign.
The honest truth – Hmmmm, I guess there might be “false truth” but only in politics.
I see what you are saying – This one is also usually spoken, not written, but it amazes me that people don’t understand what’s linguistically wrong with this.
Ink pen – If it weren’t an ink pen, it would be a pencil. (In the age of computers you don’t see this redundancy much anymore.)
Interface – This is how two computers or two software languages exchange data. Human beings interact. If it’s being used to describe someone who is a go-between for two other people, then write that or, better, use the word “liaison.”
Irregardless – How many times do I need to say it? THIS IS NOT A WORD. The word is “regardless.”
Mandatory options – This oxymoron reminds me of Soviet Democracy.
Most complete – Last time I checked, anything that was not complete was incomplete.
Negative supplement – I wonder if this is like negative growth?
New innovation – Hello? Redundant redundancy? Is that you?
One of the only – Uhhhh, if it’s not the only one, then it is one of several, one of many, one of the few…. You get my drift.
Past history – Do I really have to explain why this is wrong?
Sketchy details – And here I always thought details were fine bits of specific information.
The torso from the neck down – Well, I know some football players and bodybuilders look like their torso goes all the way to the top of their heads, but …
Totally unique – As opposed to the unique one that’s just like all the others…
Turned up missing – If it turned up, then how is it …? Oh, never mind.
Two twins – Twins. Just twins, okay? My six-year-old knows it means two.
Untimely death – Unless you were working with Jack Kevorkian, I think most deaths fall into the untimely category.
Viable alternative – If it’s not viable, it really isn’t much of an alternative, is it?
Schubert b2b is Philadelphia’s B2B digital marketing agency that unites the lead-generating power of inbound marketing with the brand-building power of outbound marketing. Schubert b2b develops 100% strategic business-to-business marketing programs that generate leads and grow revenue. For 37 years, Schubert has been creating B2B brand leaders in technology-rich industries as diverse as biotech, chemicals and computer software using integrated marketing communications (IMC) programs. Schubert is a member of ICOM, a global network of marketing communications agencies.