The writing shouldn’t come between the reader and what’s being described. And the writer shouldn’t get in the way, like a small petulant child tugging at your elbow: “Look, look at this. Let me show you something.” Look at the following sentences, all of which contain unnecessary attention seeking words:

The problem: Please provide information about yourself and your work area to help us understand your responses. (We can safely assume this is the case, unless you’ve asked for the response to be on behalf of a stranger)

The sentence could be rewritten as: This information will help us to provide a better working environment.

The problem: We will share our aspirations and goals with our local communities, supporting them and working with them to the benefit of everyone. (Really? And there we were thinking you were sharing another organisation’s with a foreign community, and the benefit would be limited to a single person.)

The rewrite: Aspirations and goals will be shared with communities; we will support and work together for mutual benefit.

The problem: Contact us to request a case study about our experience.

Strictly this could be reworded as ‘Ask for a case study’, since the assumption is the experience is ours and to contact us. However, this last example was taken from a website. And is fine as it is. Why?

Because, as a rule of thumb, when writing for the web you can get away with referring to yourself, or others as you would in a conversation (‘personally, and it’s just my opinion, but I…’). The sentence structure is much shorter; the style is chatty and informal. It is a more forgiving format.

Whereas print requires a more formal style and anything longer than two paragraphs begs for you to go back and edit out these weasel words. Or risk irritating your reader with the stylistic glitch, where you are being unnecessarily specific. If it’s obvious that I’m recommending this approach then I don’t need to tell you it’s my approach that I’m recommending to you. Excuse me, I’ll just get out of your way…