8 Weak Phrases To Avoid in Writing

by | Jul 2, 2022 | GrammarSpot, Writing Tips | 0 comments

Previously, I discussed several weak words to avoid in writing. I discovered that just like cutting calories, cutting words isn’t easy. But, the results were so effective, I decided to strengthen my writing by focusing on weak phrases, too.

With That Said

The phrase “with that said” was one I often used as a transition or to emphasize a point. However, I realized it was often useless. Sometimes, if I’m trying to remind the reader of a particularly important point, I use “keep in mind” instead, but generally I’ll just omit “with that said” and not use a replacement.

In My Opinion

“In my opinion” is another weak phrase I’m usually better off without, especially when writing high-quality content in the first-person voice. The only exception would be when writing an opinion piece in a publication that’s not clearly identified as one that specializes in op/ed pieces. Otherwise, this weak phrase has no value because readers already assume the opinion expressed is my own.

All Things Being Equal

Even though I love to mention matters of equality, especially inside the social justice framework, I realized “all things being equal” is yet another one of the weak phrases my writing is better off without. Sometimes readers don’t even understand what the phrase means. It’s one way of saying, “If everything goes as expected,” but I cut the wordiness and say, “Hopefully,” or “I expect …”

At All Times

I often notice the weak phrase “at all times” when reading lists of rules while attending concerts. Barriers posted in front of the stage sometimes read, “Keep your ticket stub at all times.” However, reducing wordiness by merely instructing concertgoers to keep their ticket stubs is sufficient.

Back and Forth

Although I like to convey descriptiveness through writing, “back and forth” doesn’t help achieve my goal because it’s empty. I can describe motion more vividly by writing something like, “The flag whipped around its pole, caught by the sudden breeze,” instead of saying, “The flag blew back and forth.”

I Might Add

This phrase strips power from writing, and it may even make a writer come across as unnecessarily defensive. For example, in the sentence, “I’m an excellent guitar player, I might add,” the phrase doesn’t add value and could make people think I’m trying too hard to hastily assure them I’m a skilled musician.

Pick Up On

Before I started becoming more aware of weak phrases, sometimes I used “pick up on” rather than making my sentences maximally concise. It got my point across, but not in the most streamlined way. For example, if my original sentence is, “I didn’t pick up on his nervousness,” I could change it to, “I didn’t sense his nervousness” and increase clarity.

Try to Figure Out

“Try to figure out” might not cause confusion, but it makes writing clunky. Instead of writing a piece of advice that instructed, “Try to figure out what you want to do in life,” I’d say, “Decide what you want to do in life.” Wording it that way creates a more succinct sentence, plus it lets the recipient know I believe he or she is capable of deciding on a desired path rather than only trying to decide.

These are some of the weak phrases I’ve tried to avoid to make my writing leaner, but stronger. Are there some glaring omissions on this list? If so, comment below!

Sorcha Szczerbiak
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