Wordiness can invade our writing when we wish to talk in general terms, but aren’t sure how. The solution often lies in simple words. It is up to writers and editors to keep them alive, and reveal their value to others.
This time in our series on the value of simplicity and bringing back dying words (like ‘can‘ and ‘although‘), I’d like to campaign for 3 words that are useful when talking about amounts and numbers: some, many and most.
These are useful when we don’t have the exact numbers, or when we want to talk in general terms:
Some people believe in aliens.
Many of the books were damaged in the fire.
Most of our desserts are nut-free.
But these simple terms are often pushed out, especially in government or scientific reports, by lengthier terms:
some = a number of
many = a large number of, a large proportion of
most = the majority of, a significant number of.
These add words without any additional meaning, and indeed sometimes make the meaning less clear – does a significant number of people mean just many, or does it mean most?
Authors sometimes think that using simple terms – such as some, many or most – makes their writing less formal or official. But simplicity does not necessarily mean informality. Our goal should always be effective communication, and that includes using clear, simple words when they are needed.