Glen Danzig on words:
“But when you get to a song, not only do you have to do a vocal melody,
you have to write words and not be redundant and make some semblance of a story.”
CONGRATULATIONS to Erroll Kamel! Erroll is the winner of a $25 Starbucks gift card, after his name was drawn randomly from all participants in the first On Words Quiz! Have you taken the quiz yet? You still can, just for fun.
This month, we look at avoiding redundancies and at the use and overuse of ‘etc.’ in business communications:
My grandmother liked to preface her opinions with, “To tell you the honest truth…”, as if there was any other kind! Many of us use redundancies in speech and even in writing. Some do it for emphasis, but it rarely enhances, and typically bloats, communication. In some instances, redundancies such as ‘free gift’ in promotional writing can be effective, but generally, they are unnecessarily repetitive. Here are some common business redundancies, excerpted from a more general list of 200 Common Redundancies, by Richard Nordquist:
Absolutely essential, added bonus, advance planning, all-time record, basic fundamentals, brief summary, cancel out, collaborate together, completely eliminate, compete with each other, current trend, depreciate in value, end result, estimated at about, favourable approval, final outcome, joint collaboration, lag behind, merge together, new innovation, originally created, past records, period of time, recur again, revert back, single unit, time period, ultimate goal, unintentional mistake, whether or not, and very unique.
Use and Overuse of ‘etc.’
You might think it odd there are guidelines for the frequently-used abbreviation ‘etc.’ – short for the Latin et cetera – which means and the rest, but surprise! Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Do not use etc. at the end of a phrase introduced by ‘such as’, or ‘for example’, or ‘e.g.’
- Consider whether the reader can infer what other items might be included in the list before using ‘etc.’
- Only use ‘etc.’ after you have listed at least two or three items in the list.
- Don’t use ‘and’ just before ‘etc.’ because that would be a redundancy – ‘et cetera’ includes ‘and.’
- Don’t use ‘etc.’ to refer to people. Instead, use ‘et al’ – which means ‘and others.’
‘Etc.’ is often overused, and can suggest laziness or a reluctance to define clearly what the grouping includes, so use it sparingly. There are also times when it makes sense to use ‘etc.’ As Grammarist.com indicates, “Etc. is best reserved for times when there is no question of what’s being omitted, or when listing every item in a large group would be unnecessary.”
P.S. It’s almost impossible to write about ‘etc.’ without recalling the famous, emphatic line from the The King and I