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Verbiage

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  • The noun verbiage, meaning an excess of words, has negative connotations. When one refers to the verbiage of a piece of text, this implies that the text is wordy, impenetrable, or pretentious. The word is not traditionally synonymous with neutral words such as textwords, wording, or content, though it is sometimes used this way.

    Verbage, a common misspelling of verbiage, is not a dictionary-recognized word.

    Examples

    These instances of verbiage are questionable because the word is simply synonymous with wording or text and does not bear the word’s usual negative connotations:

    One notable change is that the verbiage “post” seems to be completely removed from the Facebook vocabulary.  [Search Engine Land]

    While the titles of proposed legislation have been available for several weeks, the actual verbiage inside the documents is still being crafted. [Time Record]

    Through their verbiage, the signs seem to imply that it is illegal to turn right on red after stopping at those intersections. [Florida Times-Union]

    In each of these cases, verbiage would bear replacement with a more neutral word. The writer in the first example obviously means word or term instead of verbiage. The second seems to mean text instead of verbiage, and in the third example wording would work much better.

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    In these examples. verbiage bears its traditional sense:

    To the extent that the choices emerge in public debate, they are buried beneath layers of misleading verbiage. [Sydney Morning Herald]

    At times the opulence of the verbiage becomes exhausting. [This is London]

    But Mr. Kilroy spends more time exploring purple verbiage than emotional truths, reducing Bosie to a bloviating codger. [New York Times]

    Excess verbiage

    Because verbiage is by definition an excess of words, the phrases excess verbiage and excessive verbiage are redundant. For example, these sentences could lose the modifier with no loss of meaning:

    Also look for opportunities to simplify your writing, culling excess verbiage a la Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. [Lifehacker Australia]

    Armisen is a lover of great, discombobulated trains of excessive verbiage. [AV Club]

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    Comments

    1. I’m having an argument with a friend, she says “verbiages” is the plural of verbiage, I say it’s not, unless of course you use Wiki for all of your knowledge.

      However, every accredited dictionary I’ve referenced makes no notation for a plural form, let alone any word “verbiages” even existing.

      Can you shed some light?

      • Grammarist says:

        Interesting. We can’t imagine any instance were “verbiage” would need a plural. As far as we have seen, it’s always used as a mass noun—i.e., a noun that can’t be counted, such as “courage,” “water,” or “traffic.” So saying “there are five verbiages” makes about as much sense as saying, for instance, “there are five courages” or “there are five traffics.” Unless there’s some new sense of “verbiage” that we’ve never encountered.

        Checking all our dictionaries, we see the same as you—only “verbiage,” with no plural form. 

    2. “Also look for opportunities to simplify your writing, culling excess verbiage a la Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. [Lifehacker Australia]”

      Oh the irony!

    3. Trying to understand verbial conten writing and why it is used to write content for a website. Thing his iformation you share will make it more clear some how. Thanks!

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