For a business writing class I will teach later today, I asked participants to let me know what they would like to be able do better in their writing. Among those responding, two participants wanted to “use better verbiage” and “use more powerful verbiage.”
Being an advocate of clear business writing, my first thought was to suggest that they use simpler language–to avoid words like verbiage. But then I decided to find out just what verbiage means.
In a review of six online dictionaries and one on my bookshelf (A-G below), these are the definitions of verbiage I found:
B. 1. a profusion of words usually of little or obscure content. 2. a manner of expressing oneself in words.
C. 1. excess of words that add little or nothing to the meaning. 2. a style of language in which something is expressed.
D. 1. overabundance of words. 2. a style of language in which something is expressed.
E. excessively lengthy or technical writing.
F. language which is very complicated and which contains a lot of words.
G. more words than necessary; wordiness.
Wow! Now that I am sure of the meanings of verbiage, I am going to suggest that the writers in class eliminate verbiage–not use it more powerfully. I’ll suggest that they use simpler or more powerful language depending on their goal and their reader’s needs.