The “Basics”


Watch out for these common slips when using words related to “basic”:

1. I was basically on hold for more than 20 minutes until a customer service rep solved my issue. What is “basically” doing in this sentence? If we’re saying we weren’t really on hold the entire time, we might say “intermittently on hold.” If we mean we could be exaggerating, we might say “what seemed like 20 minutes.” Or maybe we should just delete “basically.” That’s often the case.

But note that “basically” does serve a purpose when we truly mean “fundamentally,” as in “I find all of Smith’s complaints basically the same.” This conveys that his complaints are a bit different, but they are variations on a theme.

2. At the beginning of the season, it seemed Coach Jones was reshuffling her lineup on a daily basis. This lack of conciseness is not serious, but we enhance our writing (and speaking) when we avoid it. We don’t need “on a daily basis” because “daily” can stand on its own (as can “weekly,” “hourly,” etc.)  All we need is “… Jones was reshuffling her lineup daily.”

3. For every camping trip we create a new list of basic essentials. Did you catch the common redundancy? All we need is “basics” or “essentials.” Choose one.

In addition to presenting workshops on writing in the workplace, Norm is a writer, editor, and writing coach. His 100+ Instant Writing Tips is a brief “non-textbook” to help individuals overcome common writing errors and write with more finesse and impact. Learn more at   

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