It’s Apparent That It’s Obviously Clear, Of Course « The Mightier Pen's Blog

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It’s Apparent That It’s Obviously Clear, Of Course

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It irks me somewhat when I come across a writer whose vocabulary is frequented by words such as ‘obviously’, ‘clearly’, and the phrase ‘of course’. If it’s so flippin’ obvious, why say it?

If I am reading an informative article or blog post then it’s quite good to be treated with a modicum of respect. Including the word ‘obviously’ or one of its delinquent cohorts tends to be for one of three reasons.

Such words are frequently included simply because the writer fears terribly that his or her writing is so sloppy that any reader will struggle to leap from point to point like a mountain goat, and instead needs to be carried along on a stretcher of unnecessary and fairly meaningless adjectives and adverbs.

These words are also often included because the writer hasn’t yet thought of what to say in the paragraph which he or she has already begun to write. It’s a sort of ‘writer’s block’ method which, whilst fine in itself if it works for you that way, should be removed a little the scaffolding which it effectively is.

You can usually scratch out any clause which begins with the words ‘obviously’, ‘clearly’, and ‘of course’, immediately improving the overall quality and tone of the article.

It's Apparent That It’s Obviously Clear, Of Course

The third reason such words may be included is because the writer is being paid by the word, and pointing out the obvious in an unnecessary way, and underlining the fact that it’s obvious, is a great way of adding an extra few pence to the bill.

Words and phrases such as ‘actually’ and ‘in fact’ are also often sprinkled throughout such writing, and invariably for little other reason than to beef up the writer’s income, as far as I can tell. Certainly they add nothing to the content itself.

I suspect that in a few cases these horrible words are included out of sheer habit, and so I would urge anyone writing blog posts, web content, articles or other online literature to include during the proofreading and editing stage a thorough check of these odious little linguistic oiks.

I’m not going to claim perfection myself. I freely admit that I have discovered a tendency to punctuate my writing with the word ‘actually’ about as often as my first car punctuated the peace and quiet of my neighbourhood with alarming bangs. As a result I make sure that prior to releasing my writing into the wild and watching it scamper off happily into the digital wilderness, I cut, prune and snip every last example of that word, and any of its cohorts.

Try removing ‘actually’, ‘of course’, ‘obviously’, ‘in fact’ and ‘clearly’ from your writing. You’ll generally find that your writing becomes tighter, and your audience made to feel less like slow dullards in need of a linguistic helping hand to stagger from one highbrow point to the next.

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Discussion

  1. Sarah Watkinson  May 3, 2013

    That’s particularly important for textbook writers. Being made to feel a dullard also makes you feel the author might withhold interesting material too hard for you to grasp.
    Are there ways in which an author’s style can do the opposite, and flatter the reader’s understanding?

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  2. ben corde  May 3, 2013

    I can fully endorse this blog. A critique disclosed that I had a whole dictionary of useless ‘padding’ words in my original manuscripts of The Badger’s Holt Affair’. After editing and removing all these unnecessary words and repetition the word count dropped from 120K to 73K but it’s now a much more effective, sharper version of the original and gave me the confidence to publish to Kindle.

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  3. Victoria  May 5, 2013

    Ooh, thank you for this. I’m an ‘actually’ and ‘of course’ person! I’ll edit my blog pronto! Perfectly timed blog; I’m 36,000 words into my novel! It’ll probably be 8,000 words post edit. Thanks

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  4. Vashti Quiroz-Vega  May 6, 2013

    Well, actually I agree with you, but it’s obvious that writers should not use fill-ins to expand their stories. Clearly, you know what you’re talking/writing about. In fact,…just kidding! Ha, ha!
    Thank you for the information it is very well received. :D

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    • Monica  May 7, 2013

      Hahahaha! My kind of humor.

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  5. Monica  May 7, 2013

    I’m an amateur writer just starting out and I appreciate this post very much. I just started writing on my blog and reading about all things grammar related. My blog has a couple of these words. Whoops! My writing will improve in the future. Thanks for the post.

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  6. Katie  May 21, 2013

    The first time someone pointed out the wordiness of my writing, I was annoyed. But then, after I let the quick flash of anger fade, I realized the wisdom in the advice. This article reminded of that. I always think that if you have to point out something obvious, then you didn’t do a good enough job writing. The reader should come to the conclusion that something is ‘obvious.’

    Thanks for the great article!

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  7. Julia Johnston  June 6, 2013

    Thanks much for this reminder! I had an inkling that I might be overusing ‘for some reason’ in my novel; I typed the offending phrase into ‘find’ in Word. I daren’t write here how many times it appeared, but a lot of deleting went on! I wanted certain characters to be recognised as favouring certain phrases, terms of affection, expletives, insult words etc, but there’s a risk that overdoing it not only fails to endear the reader to the character, but becomes, at best, a nuisance and at worst, alienating.

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  8. Patti Hall  June 10, 2013

    Obviously, of course it is clearly I, who is actually, in fact making these linguistic oiks.
    Great reminders, Justin. Thank you.

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  9. Kiersten  June 20, 2013

    Justin,
    This has always been one of my biggest pet peeves! Thanks for addressing it :]

    @Kierstwit

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  10. Karen (Wildfire8470)  July 9, 2013

    Now that’s what I’m talking about! If I may, I’ll add the word I was guilty of: “That.” (i.e. I knew that he was a lumberjack.” The sunlight made me squint in an unattractive manner that I was unaware of.: Etc. Try cutting out “that” also.

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  11. Misa Jovcic  July 17, 2013

    Actually, of course, in fact, English language clearly is not an obviously easy language…

    (reply)

Reply to Katie

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