12 modifiers that writers should trash

These words and phrases serve only to slow your readers as they stumble toward your message. Get out the broom and dustpan, and let’s get to work.

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In a webinar I created a couple of years ago, I compared cluttered writing to a junk-filled attic.

The following bits of verbal rubbish could present a stumbling hazard to your readers.

Here, in no particular order, are 12 modifiers that belong in the trash can—or maybe the recycling bin. (Some are superfluous only in certain contexts.)

New. “The construction crew erected a building.” Was it new? Of course. Do you need to say new. Of course not. It’s implicit. If your company introduces a product or launches a service, new is redundant. A “new initiative” is utterly heinous. Fresh can fall into this category, too. “I brewed a pot of fresh coffee.” If you just tossed some whole beans into a grinder before brewing then you could proclaim, “I brewed a pot of freshly ground coffee.” I think you should; you’ve earned it.

Some/any. These murky quantifiers usually add nothing. “Do we have any châteaubriand?” “No, how about some liverwurst instead?”

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