Ditch these superfluous lead-in phrases

Needless introductory verbiage just wastes time—the reader’s and your own. Save yourself the keystrokes, and say what you mean to say.

Many writers don’t get to the damn point.

Instead, they galumph along, adding meaningless keystrokes, padding their prose.

In old baseball films, many pitchers would execute an absurd, double-rocking windup before throwing the ball. The extra histrionics did nothing but bore the crowd and sap their own energy.

Similarly, today’s writers toss in superfluous phrases before making a point. Readers don’t have any use for them, and they waste everyone’s time.

Consider these prime culprits:

  • Not surprisingly. If it’s not surprising, why mention it? Same old same-old? No, thanks.
  • Be sure to. What follows this phrase will be, invariably, an imperative. “Be sure to close the door.” Just say, “Close the door.” The supposed emphasis is nil—and not worth the added verbiage.
  • It is important to remember that. Tell me something memorable, and I’ll remember it.
  • Never forget that. Ditto: something unforgettable.
  • There’s no denying that. I’ll deny whatever I like, thank you: climate change, gravity, the existence of cheese. People today will deny anything. You’re spoiling for a fight with this one.
  • The truth is. Is this the “revealed truth” (as depicted in some overwrought, crowd-sourced novel), or just a truism, such as, “Birds of a feather gather no moss”? Do you mean, by “truth,” your fervent belief, or a collective understanding of reality? Go on. Tell the truth.
  • Take the time to. Whatever process you’re recommending, it will take time—perhaps several weeks or maybe a moment. Regardless, this phrase isn’t worth your time or the reader’s.
  • The fact of the matter is. For Pete’s sake, just tell me this fact. Besides, if a writer introduces the notion of a “fact,” it calls into question the veracity of all that came before. “Up to now, I’ve served up a tureen of twaddle, piffle and balderdash, bathed in hogwash, with a soupçon of poppycock, but this right here is an actual, bona fide fact.”
  • It is common wisdom/knowledge that. What exactly are you offering, and if this knowledge is common, what’s holding me on the page? I could be tweeting.
  • I want to start off by saying. Too late. You started off by clearing your throat.
  • Everyone recognizes/understands that. This one is especially dangerous—largely because of the absolute term “everybody.” Your reader might be the exception—and might take exception: “Have I been left out of the loop?” or, “Are you calling me obtuse?” (Well, Friedhelm, if the obtuse fits, wear it.)
  • Indeed; as such. You might as well write, “forsooth.” Beyond offering nothing of substance, these clunkers also bear the miasma of pomposity. (Miasma of Pomposity was a popular men’s cologne in the ’70s, by the way.)


5 Responses to “Ditch these superfluous lead-in phrases”

    Janelle says:

    For a bit there, I was getting press releases that had “Simply stated:” followed by the most convoluted line of non-readable copy. EVERY TIME. Whoever started that trend should be tarred and feathered.

    IC says:

    “Take the time to” could be OK in situations where a reader actually needs to take time to do something. Otherwise, this list is spot on.

    “In order to” also needs to go, as do “All things being equal” and “For the purpose of.”

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