Writing Style – Unnecessary Words

Hilary’s question: “I often see sentences that I think overuse the word ‘of,’ e.g., ‘He lived outside of Canada’ or ‘She peered out of the window.’   Isn’t this incorrect?”
BizWritingTip response: This is actually a style issue rather than a grammar one. The term “outside of” is considered acceptable North American informal speech. However, business writing is all about brevity. Words should be used to convey a meaning, to create a tone or parallel flow, or to link ideas. If a word does not do one of these things, it should be eliminated.

Therefore, when writing in the business world, I would eliminate “of” whenever possible.

Examples (correct)

He lived outside Canada.
She peered out the window.

In the following phrases and sentences, I have italicized other words I recommend eliminating when writing in the business world:

Should we do any advance planning for the ceremony? (Have you ever planned for the past?)
In my past experience (All experiences come from the past.)
What is the current status of the project? (Status means what is happening currently.)
In my personal opinion (If it is your opinion, it is personal.)
We should co-operate together  to find a solution. (If you are co-operating, it is together.)

Blaise Pascal, the 17th century mathematician, once stated “I am sorry this is such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.” This statement makes sense. It does take longer to write concisely. But today’s business skimmers appreciate reading sentences pared of unnecessary fluff.

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