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My Vending Machine is Superfluous. You Shouldn’t Be.

This morning I took a trip to my office’s vending machine to buy Trail Mix – a breakfast of champions considering the other options were Pop Tarts and M&Ms. I put my dollar into the machine and what I saw next made me sad. The machine told me that E3, the Trail Mix of course, was “being surrendered.” The words made me feel like a bully… even a captor. All I wanted was a snack – couldn’t it have been “dispensed”??? All jokes aside, this jogged my easily jog-able mind and prompted this post.

Superfluity: simply, something that serves no useful purpose. Something of excess. If you are a communications pro, excess is your nemesis. Our job is to create messages that connect with our audience, period. In today’s world, the time we have to connect is fleeting. Society is bombarded by messages at a staggering rate and only connects with those that convey their meaning in a clear, concise way. Keep it simple, stupid (KISS).

Superfluity rears its ugly head in many ways: grandiose or esoteric words, redundancies and more commonly, words that are used unnecessary (suddenly, simply, just, some).  Like a basketball player making a no-look behind the back pass when a simple bounce pass will do, communicators also succumb to doing more than needed, sometimes in an effort to separate them from the herd. But what separates us is the connections we make.

“Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word, when there is a ten-center handy.”

So how do we avoid superfluity? For me, when it comes to writing, I use a simple system. First, I’ll write a draft of whatever it is I’m working on and then go over it several times with my “audience hat” on, examining every word and sentence to see if what I have written will connect with whomever my audience is in an effective way – the first time. That’s the key, especially in written communication. Often times you will not be there to preface, qualify or explain whatever you’ve written, so write it in a way that needs no further explanation. Write it as if you’ll never have the chance to explain it.

When speaking, I try to choose words carefully. I live somewhere on the fringes, using words that show my command of language but do not come off as arrogant. This is another important thing to keep in mind. Superfluous communication can often come across as arrogant which leaves you dead in the water. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve sat it where an over the top word is used and my thinking switches from the topic at hand to the use of the particular word and what it says about the speaker.

Superfluity muddles the message and will kill the connection. Do you come across it often in your daily lives? How so? What do you do to combat it?

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