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Miscellaneous

Note 96 – The sin of circumlocution in writing


The noun circumlocution (or periphrasis) is “roundabout speech or writing, or using a lot of words when a few will do”, writes Graham King in his book Collins Improve your Writing Skills. 

Circumlocutionists tend to write something in a long winded, roundabout way to sound knowledgeable or when they don’t want to hurt someones feelings.

The Cambridge Online Dictionary (link below) defines circumlocution as follows:

 http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/circumlocution?q=circumlocution.

  • an indirect way of saying something, especially something unpleasant
  • digressing and being indirect or evasive

I’m sure you can think of a few circumlocutory phrases.  Here are my favourites taken from the large list in Graham King’s book Collins Improve your Writing Skills.  Try and see if you can work out how you can say the phrases in less words (answers at the end of the blog):

  1. In the near future
  2. Owing to the fact that
  3. Beg to differ
  4. In the absence of
  5. In the event that
  6. Regardless of the fact that
  7. At this point in time

My thoughts: I’ll be looking out for circumlocutory phrases from now on, including in my own writing.  Cutting words out is also a good way to reduce the word count on stories, articles, letters etc.

Hope you have enjoyed reading this daily blog.  Don’t forget that you can subscribe to receive them by email. 

Until tomorrow…

Sandra

This blog: https://mywritingnotebook.wordpress.com

My other blog: http://sandramadeira.wordpress.com

My website: www.tipsandluxuries.com (includes the introduction to my book ‘A Gift for Stressed and Busy Parents’)

Twitter: @madeirasandra and @tipsandluxuries

Reference list:

Graham King The Collins Improve your Writing Skills, UK

Cambridge Dictionaries Online: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/circumlocution?q=circumlocution

Answers to circumlocutory phrases :

  1. In the near future – soon
  2. Owing to the fact that – because
  3. Beg to differ – disagree
  4. In the absence of – without
  5. In the event that – if
  6. Regardless of the fact that – although
  7. At this point in time – now/at present
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About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Please let me know what you think of my blog - constructive comments welcome. Have a great day Sandra Freelance Writer www.sandramadeira.com

Discussion

One thought on “Note 96 – The sin of circumlocution in writing

  1. Hi Sandra,
    My apology for typos. Thanks for this post. On one hand, I agree with what you are trying to say on this topic. According to me, being careful of the tendency for circumlocution is a good thing, especially in the context of technical communication or formal communication.
    On the other hand, I am just wondering what will happen if we get rid of all such phrases or phrasal verbs because of circumlocution. Won’t it become bit boring? Just a thought.

    Overall, concise and precise writing is essential. I agree. Thanks again.

    Posted by Antony Terrence | November 16, 2012, 9:49 am

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