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A Two-Word Phrase You Seldom Need

By Theda C. Snyder
Get to the Point
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We Care Whether You Like This Hack for Removing Extraneous Words

Here’s a two-word phrase you seldom need: “or not.”

“Are you coming or not?”

“Whether or not you agree is irrelevant.”

“Tell me if you like this or not.”

In each of these examples, the phrase is superfluous. Perhaps the most frequent use of “or not” is with “whether.” You can get your point across without these extra words.

Superfluity fattens your word count and buries the point of your argument in verbosity. When you are struggling to come within a size limit for your brief, hacks for identifying and removing extraneous words are a godsend.

Vomit on the Page

No, not literally! When you’re writing your first drafts, just let it all come out regardless of length. Write whatever you are thinking without a lot of attention to grammar. Release your indignation in unrelenting purple prose. Then go back and edit to tidy the grammar, tighten the language and temper the tone. To repeat a cliché: Think of your early drafts as creating in clay, not marble.

Here’s the hack. Use Find and Replace to remove “or not” and to catch other unfortunate word choices. Terse writing is more effective writing.

Related Writing Tips from Teddy Snyder:

“Eloquence Makes Every Word Important”

“These Junk Phrases Could Undermine Your Credibility”

“It’s the Word Most Often Used Incorrectly”

“Your Livelihood Depends on Persuasive Writing”

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Categories: Communicating, Communications Skills, Get to the Point, Grammar, Legal Writing, You At Work
Originally published November 2, 2022
Last updated November 14, 2022
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Teddy Snyder Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workers’ compensation and insurance coverage cases, including COVID-19 related coverage disputes, in person or by video. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 4th Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at and on Twitter @SnyderMediation.

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