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:
- 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):
- In the near future
- Owing to the fact that
- Beg to differ
- In the absence of
- In the event that
- Regardless of the fact that
- 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.
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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 :
- In the near future – soon
- Owing to the fact that – because
- Beg to differ – disagree
- In the absence of – without
- In the event that – if
- Regardless of the fact that – although
- At this point in time – now/at present