Why you should never, ever use these 15 repetitive redundancies in business, romance, or life.

Updated to Business, Habits on June 28, 2023.

I was in a car the other day with a radiologist and a neurosurgeon talking about hypertension. 

This conversation is actually not as unusual as it might sound. I volunteer for a local society that does trail clearing in a popular hiking and mountain bike park and many of the volunteers happen to be recently retired doctors. 

Back in the car, one of the doctors happened to mention that recently his medical partner, who is in his early 60’s, had a mild stroke. As we wound our way further up the dirt road to our work site my education continued. 

I learned that strokes are the second biggest cause of mortality worldwide and the third most common cause of disability. The scary statistics get worse. As you age your chance of a stroke doubles every 10 years after 55

There’s a checklist of health conditions that make you more susceptible to a stroke, like obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. But the biggest culprit – six times out of ten – is hypertension or high blood pressure. In my books, that’s worth paying attention to.

What’s interesting is that stress, in itself, is not the direct cause of high blood pressure. It’s what we do when under stress that leads to nasty results. We eat too much, drink too much, and move too little. Basically, we deal with stress by making unhealthy choices.

For me, stress starts with worry.

Ngoc Son Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

I’ve had a lot of worries

There is a world of problems you can worry about – take your pick. You can worry that Ukraine will be pummeled into a tiny province of rubble, or that we’ve passed the tipping point with global warming, or the tiny spot on your chin is cancer. 

Or not.

“I’ve had a lot of worries,” quipped Mark Twain “most of which never happened.” Our mind loves a good worry. Like a dog chewing a bone, we want to turn our worry around, looking from all angles, poking and prodding until it swells up into something bigger than it really is.

I used to worry incessantly before every keynote speech. I’d worry I’d miss my flight or wasn’t prepared enough, or I would be greeted by the “audience from hell.” Trust me, when you have 60 minutes to educate, entertain, inspire, motivate, and get laughs from an audience you’ve never met before, any sane person would invent a long list of worries.

It was at one of those events when a fellow speaker opened an exit door for my worries. He suggested that audiences don’t want you to fail – in fact, they want you to succeed. “They want to see you having fun—enjoying yourself. That way,” he explained, “they can enjoy the ride with you.”

When I accepted the long list of what I could never control – my flights, the audience, the speaker before me going overtime – I was free to focus on what I could control.

Enjoying the moment. 

What your life will have been

In her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön tells the story of delighting in the preciousness of every single moment.

A woman is running from lions. She runs and she runs, and the lions are getting closer. She comes to the edge of a cliff. She sees a vine there, so she climbs down and holds onto it. Then she looks down and sees that there are lions below her as well. At the same time, she notices a little mouse gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries emerging from a nearby clump of grass. She looks up, she looks down, and she looks a the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry, pops it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Learning what to focus on, and what to ignore, seems to be the ultimate secret to living a healthy, stress-free life. “Whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment,” writes Oliver Burkeman in Four Thousand Weeks (a must-read for anyone over 50), “is simply what your life will have been.”

So, what are you focussing on?

What to focus on

You can learn a lot when you’re the dumbest one in a car full of doctors. I learned that strokes are a silent pandemic. And that hypertension is the leading cause of that pandemic. And I learned the leading cause of hypertension is stress. 

I was also reminded that stress is a choice.

We all have lions and tigers in our life. Maybe even a mouse or two gnawing away at something we value. Meanwhile, we have the moment.

Choosing what to focus on (and what not to) might just be the healthiest choice you can make.

Got this far? You might also like these posts:

Photo of eggs by Nik on Unsplash
Photo of Ngoc Son Temple by author
Photo of tigers by author

I detest limp language. You know, the kind of sentence when you’re not sure what the person means, or even if they mean what they said.

It happens so frequently, I’ve kept a list. I’ll get to the list in just a minute.

But, first let’s look inside the brain.


As you know, the brain has two operating systems: the conscious (which is saying right now “Gee, I knew that already”), and the unconscious (which is saying “Wow! That Culver is one smart dude!”). Actually, that’s not true – the unconscious is feeling either pain or pleasure. If you hear what you like, unconsciously you are drawn to the person and their message. The opposite is also, unfortunately, true.

When we speak we often focus only on the conscious brain. You’ve seen it happen. The Ph.D in a rumpled suit, stands behind the lectern, and bores us with dribble about polyunsaturated fats and triglycerides. They are talking to the conscious brain.

Meanwhile, the unconscious brain is down the hall in the bathroom.


The trick to speaking with influence is to get both the conscious, thinking brain, and the unconscious, critical brain both nodding their dendrites in agreement.

I first learned this lesson from my father. I grew up in a family of  nine children (please send money) and my father had little patience for limp images_key 3language. He was a captain in the army, chartered accountant by trade, and task master when it came to language. 

And his lexicon was verbose. 

Didn’t know the meaning of paucity, perpetuity, or petulant? “Get the dictionary” he would command. (Gen Y readers, click here to see a picture of a dictionary). And we would go running.

My second lesson came in graduate school. Any belief I had any skill at composing a thought or presenting an argument was slammed up against a wall of red ink edits and large chunks of text “X’d” out, one page at a time. Exorcising redundancy became a valued sport.


My third lesson came as a speaker. In a typical speech, depending on how long it takes the Emcee to thank sponsors and stumble through my intro, I deliver about 8,000 words (55 minutes X 150 words per minute). That’s $1 a word. Nice work, if you can get it.

My job, on stage, it to get the unconscious mind leaning in, and the conscious mind alert and learning. Any rabbit hole or flagrant phraseology (like that one) alerts the unconscious, danger is lurking. Meanwhile, the conscious mind also goes on alert and stops learning.

One way to avoid rabbit holes when speaking is to step around words and idioms that are redundant, rhetorical, or completely ridiculous (I wrote more about using clear communication in my post “Clear Communication: why you need to use straight talk to get what you want“).

Now, on with my list.


If you drop these dead-weight words and idioms from your language you will immediately have more impact (in brackets are the names of friends and colleagues who generously shared their favourite example and pet peeve):

1.  “Honestly…” / “In all honestly…” REALLY!??!?! Have you NOT been honest so far in this conversation?

2.  “Truth be told…” WARNING! I’ve been listening to lies and now the good stuff is coming.

3.  “Let me be perfectly clear….” As my friend Patrcia Katz put it, “This is usually uttered by politicians and frequently followed by BAFFLEGAB.”

4.  “In my opinion…” (Janet Matthews) – THANK YOU – and exactly who’s opinion were you sharing a minute ago?

5.  “Opinions are my own.” (Frithjof Petscheleit) – WHAT A RELIEF! Here I was thinking you had gone to the “Opinion vending machine”, but these REALLY are your opinions – now that’s special.

Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.” William Zinsser, On Writing Well

6.  “I may be wrong but…” or “This may sound stupid but…” (Kaye Parker) – YES! You’re right, it already sounds stupid. 

7.  “Let me say…” or “For the record…” (Lisa White) – THANK YOU Raymond Burr! I didn’t know court was in session. 

8.  “Just saying….” (Darcia Fenton) – FASCINATING. You feel the need to tell us those were words we just heard. Thanks for that. 

9.  “Basically…” (Terri Knox) and (Jan Enns) What does that even mean? ARE YOU so sophisticated y’all gotta dumb it down for lil’ ol’ me? 

…You should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on.

“I do,” Alice hastily replied; “at least – at least I mean what I say – that’s the same thing, you know.”

“Not the same thing a bit!” said the Hatter. “You might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see!’”

10. “I would like to…” or “I want to…” (Alice Van Blokland) – GREAT! We’ll will just sit here and wait while you and your dark side fight it out. Let us know how that turns out. 

11. “That being said…” (Sharon Evans) – HERE’S A TIP: Drop “That being said” from your sentences and we will now assume you exited from the good end of high school. 

12. Starting a sentence with “So…” (Peter Koning). SAVE YOUR BREATH and get to the point.

13. “Irregardless” (Nigel Brown) – for once and for all, the word is “REGARDLESS” and, in most cases, redundant. 

14. “With all due respect…” (Lesley-Anne Evans) – FACE IT – prefacing your insult with that line does not get you off the hook – I still won’t like it. 

15. “What comes to mind…” – WOW! Are you saying everything else out of your mouth DIDN’T come from your mind? Wait here while I call Ripley’s.


When in doubt, drop it. Most of the examples of above can simply be dropped from the sentence and the message is improved. I’ll leave you with a 100-year-old tip from one of the masters of language, Mark Twain:

Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

Now, over to you. Which one off this list are you going to stop using (and why)? Tell me in the comments below.