Goes without saying

It’s easy to be hard on goes without saying—if something goes without saying, why say it?—but the phrase sometimes works well as a wordy way of saying obviously, and it can be useful for emphasis or transition. Of course, when tempted to say something goes without saying, you might want to examine whether you need to say that thing. But if you do need to say that thing and goes without saying seems like a pretty good transitional phrase, don’t let its literal meaning stop you.

While goes without saying usually isn’t as objectionable as some people say it is, there are exceptions. The phrase is less excusable when it conceals the writer’s unwillingness to make a clear argument or to provide supporting details. In these cases, it reveals dishonesty or laziness. Elsewhere, the phrase just doesn’t do anything, and sentences can be made more concise with its removal.

Examples

In these cases, the writers use goes without saying to cover up unwillingness to provide supporting details (click the links for full context):

And it goes without saying that the difference between NPR and Fox is that Fox anchors say such things all the time in public and on-air. [The Atlantic]

It goes without saying that to be an entrepreneur you have to take risks. [Forbes]

And in the following examples, the statements are interesting enough to be stated without hedging, so goes without saying could be removed:

It goes without saying that the trade embargo, with its travel restrictions, has not achieved its original purpose: deposing Fidel Castro. [Denver Post]

It should go without saying that one should not use potentially toxic products such as gasoline or kerosene – although they may kill the lice, they are also hazardous to children. [CNN]

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