The world of words, reading and writing


People like to advocate the rule to be economical with language as long as that rule doesn’t apply to them. Why are humans so good at coming up with unnecessary phrases? In our increasingly busy world where we haven’t a single second to waste, why do we persist using these redundant little phrases? These redundancies actually have a name: pleonasms. Pleonasms are where more words than necessary are used. Below I’ve compiled a little list of only some of the terrible pleonasms heard daily.

Sit down

Really? Should I not sit up? Sideways? In what other direction am I going to sit but down? Fool.

Now then

Why don’t we just drop the ‘then’?


I hate almost all portmanteaus (two words blended together to make a new word). But ‘guesstimate’ doesn’t actually create a new word so what’s the point? It means the same thing! An estimate is an educated guess.

Rough estimate

Again, stop! Everyone needs to go out, get a dictionary and look up the meaning of estimate. If it’s precise then it’s not an estimate.

No offense but…

I’m going to offend you/everything/everyone. Seriously, no one has ever started a sentence with ‘No offense but…’ and not gone on to say something offensive.

What an unexpected surprise!

What awful kind of surprise would people actually expect? A surprise that’s expected isn’t a very good surprise. A surprise that’s expected isn’t a surprise at all.

Book in advance

This helpful tip is always given out by restaurants and events that fail to realise how foolish they are. If I’m reserving something I’m doing so in advance. Can I book these tickets after the event?

Cease and desist

Ok, sometimes you add in a synonym to further hammer home your point but seriously please cease and desist saying this.

Each and every

Same as above. Each and every one of you caught saying this is about to get stabbed.

Group consensus

To hell with the group! I reached my own consensus!

End result

As opposed to the beginning result?


If it’s recorded, it was done before you watched it. Don’t you just hate recording your show after it’s finished and realising you haven’t recorded it at all?

Past experience

From the experience I’m yet to have…

Armed gunman

Maybe they mean a gunman with arms? As opposed to all those amputee gunmen. Hey, I’m not one to discriminate. If amputees want to rob banks and run around with guns let them. (Please don’t actually let amputees – or anyone else – do this.)

Complete opposite

It’s sort of the opposite but not exactly. It’s, like, half-opposite. Well it’s not actually opposite; it’s just a different thing.

So unique

Like ‘opposite’, there are no varying levels of uniqueness. Something is either unique or not, so one thing can’t be more or less unique than another. So if everyone can stop saying this then that will be, like, soooo good.

My personal opinion

I prefer the alternative for when you’re afraid what you’re about to say is stupid: ‘In the opinion of the man next to me…’

Close proximity

For when you really want to emphasise the proximity of two things in proximity of each other. Sure, my eyes are in proximity to one another but my fist is in close proximity to your face.

Whether or not

This mistake is understandable but ‘whether’ covers both possibilities. ‘Tell me whether you’re coming’ covers both possibilities of someone coming or not.

Not yet

This is used as an excuse by lazy people for not having done something they were supposed to. If you haven’t yet done something then you haven’t done it.

However, I have to admit I’m guilty of ‘not yet’. Even though it’s the same as just saying ‘No’, ‘not yet’ carries a gentler tone and implies that while the answer is no for the moment that will change.

When asked, ‘Have you vacuumed the floor?’, ‘No’ can sound a little like, ‘Nup, f*** ya.’

‘Not yet’ implies that while you haven’t done it yet, you still intend to.

If you know what I mean

The meaning of what you said doesn’t rely nor change dependent on whether we understand you or not. ‘E=mc2, if you know what I mean.’ If we don’t understand what you mean, that doesn’t change the meaning of ‘E=mc2’.

Unless you’re a master of sexual innuendo and you’re using this phrase to slip one in, if you know what I mean.


When you think about it, there are so many redundant words and phrases we use every day. If we could just stop using a few of these I would be a happier and saner person. Like Hemingway once said, ‘Goddamnit, stop making stupid with your words’. Oh wait, he didn’t say that.


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