A lesson in striking unnecessary words for tighter writing

In today’s lesson post, I’m going to look at a particular wordy phrase that I see on websites everywhere. So many online writers use it, but chopping it out can make your writing tighter. If your writing is tighter, it has more impact and makes you look more professional. The phrase I’m talking about: on a ____ basis. Fill in the blank with any one of several words, such as regular, daily, weekly or ongoing.

On-a-__-basis

Before you use the phrase “on a ___ basis,” think about whether you really need it, or if you can get rid of some of the words or use an adverb instead. Your writing will be tighter.

This phrase isn’t an error in the same way as other errors I’ve discussed in my previous lessons on apostrophe use and its/it’s. It’s not “wrong” like a grammar, spelling or punctuation error. “On a ____ basis” is a matter of style, though, of thinking about wordiness and whether you can chop the phrase out. It’s also considered pompous and jargony. I’ve collected a few examples from various websites. Let’s take a look at them and how we can fix them.

Example 1: Millions of people frequent all the different social media entities on a daily basis. This example came from a website that invites users to submit articles.

The error: The phrase “on a daily basis” at the end of this sentence is unnecessary.

The fix: With a little editing, we can get rid of three of the last four words of this sentence and tighten it without ruining the meaning.

The correct sentence: Millions of people frequent all the different social media entities daily.

Example 2: Picture a place where the brightest minds in content marketing gather on a weekly basis to share their insights and questions. This one came from the blog of a company that provides content marketing to online companies.

The error: The phrase “on a weekly basis” needs to be shortened.

The fix: Similar to the first example, we can take three of the four words out of that phrase.

The correct sentence: Picture a place where the brightest minds in content marketing gather weekly to share their insights and questions.

Example 3: On an everyday basis, the blog editor holds the responsibility of managing the team of writers who may include in-house writers, freelance writers and contributing writers or guest authors. This example came from the blog of a professional content company.

The error: This blog post was good otherwise, but it used the wordy phrase “on an everyday basis.”

The fix: There is more than one way to fix this one, but the best way is to use the adverb regularly instead and place it right before the verb so the sentence starts off stronger.

The corrected sentence: The blog editor regularly holds the responsibility of managing the team of writers who may include in-house writers, freelance writers and contributing writers or guest authors.

Example 4: What’s coming, what’s trending, what’s sinking, what’s changing are some of the questions I have to ask on an ongoing basis. This sentence came from the monetized blog of a communications professional.

The error: I like the rhythm created in the first part of this sentence, but then it ends with the wordy phrase “on an ongoing basis,” which weakens it.

The fix: There are a couple of ways to correct this sentence. One is to put the word “ongoing” before the word questions, and the other is to replace the wordy phrase with the adverb “continuously.”

The corrected sentence: What’s coming, what’s trending, what’s sinking, what’s changing are some of the ongoing questions I have to ask. OR What’s coming, what’s trending, what’s sinking, what’s changing are some of the questions I have to ask continuously.

The lesson: Cut the words on, a and basis, or use an adverb to replace this phrase. Too much wordiness can detract from the quality of your writing.

Using the phrase “on a ____ basis” too much brings down the quality of your writing. It also makes you sound like the other writers out there who don’t take the time to chop out the extra words.

I love the first line on this website: “The world has only so much space. When you write, your job is to use that space carefully.” When you think twice about using the phrase “on a ____ basis,” you use your writing space carefully, and you produce writing that sounds a little better than everyone else on the Internet.

Readers, do you find yourself using this phrase? Does it bother you when others do it? Are there other wordy phrases that bother you? Let us know in the comments!

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