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A Great Word for Business Writers

The other day Patricia from Brazil sent me a blog comment with a question. She asked whether a sentence she had written was pleonastic.


Leave it to someone from another country to teach me something new about my native language.

I thought I would share Patricia's word with you, my reader, since you are interested in business writing. Do you know what pleonastic means?

It is the adjective form of the noun pleonasm, which is, according to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary:

The use of more words than those necessary to denote mere sense (as in the man he said): REDUNDANCY.

Now you have a new way to complain about redundancy, if you choose to do so, and it's a smug, scholarly sounding way: "That writing is pleonastic," or "This writing suffers from pleonasm!"

Of course, you won't use the word if you want your audience to understand, but you can say it to yourself and smile.

If you would like to share your response to pleonasm or the word pleonastic, I would enjoy hearing from you.

Thank you, Patricia, for expanding my vocabulary! I have passed on the favor.

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

6 comments on “A Great Word for Business Writers”

  • Pleonasm can be a good thing. Bryan Garner talks about this in “The Elements of Legal Style” § 6.23. Says Bryan, “The term often means ‘redundancy’ and is used disparagingly, but it also has a rhetorical sense in which it refers to purposeful amplification that clarifies or elaborates the thought.” He gives this example by Karl Llewellyn: “Seen thus, perhaps, law appears to be a tiny thing, an infinitesimal part of civilization.”

  • Hi, Ray. It is great to hear from you again.

    Thanks for bringing in Bryan Garner. I had checked my two Garner volumes, “Garner’s Modern American Usage” and “Legal Writing in Plain English,” and neither included the term “pleonasm” in the index.

    I appreciate your excellent example, which clearly shows the rhetorical power of pleonasm. Too often, though, people simply repeat themselves rather than amplifying. For example, professionals in my writing classes often say things like this: “I want to write more concisely, having fewer words in my documents.”

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


  • I found your post both funny and informative. I have taken the time to look through several of your articles and they are very insightful. Your language is simple and easy to understand and it is because of this that I was able to take so much information from your articles. Thank you.

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