Although my business name is evidence to the contrary, I am not one to overplay the “skill” that is part of my surname. I suppose it comes across as boastful to proclaim that my “skill” is “unlimited,” but I never really meant it to be taken seriously. The name of my copywriting business happens to be SkillUnlimited, LLC, which only means that I lack imagination and like jamming two words into one that isn’t.
My daughter, who also is in business for herself as a writer, career coach and marketing consultant, chose a more elegant way to apply her name to her business, calling it Skillfully Done. It’s nice to be able to pass on something of substance to your children.
One of my son’s nicknames in school was “Skill Drill,” which, fortunately for him, never caught on. Maybe that’s why, to this day, he has an intense dislike for power tools. He, too, has his own business, but you’ll not see any incarnation of the word “skill” therein. He goes by the business name “You Can Be Found,” and he is neither evangelist nor private detective. What can I say? Google it.
I take this tight little five-letter word personally, and sometime it is better to leave it stand by itself. For example, one of the most overused expressions you’ll find in these times of shameless self-promotion is “skill set.” What is a skill set, other than a collection of power tools? It is simply your skills, and nothing more.
It is both redundant and superfluous. It’s like referring to some fugitive from justice as an armed gunman when gunman would suffice. Being armed, of course, he would also be dangerous. He could be dangerous without being armed, but not likely the other way around.
It seems we can’t help adding unnecessary words, whether it is an ink pen or a lead pencil. Why expend the extra energy to forewarn someone when you can just warn them? After all— make that before all— you wouldn’t be warning someone if you didn’t do it prior to the event of concern. It’s like over exaggerating when exaggerating pretty much covers it. And if you are not covered, why should you go barenaked when either naked or bare, will do?
It’s the same with a new innovation, being in close proximity or someone with false pretenses. Proximity is all about being close together, an innovation is all about being new and pretenses, by definition, are false and deceitful. Why use two words when one will do? I won’t even get into deaths that are untimely or unexpected.
We can all think of redundant expressions, and they have become so much a part of our vocabulary wenseldom consider their literal meanings. How about advance planning, free gifts, basic necessities, added bonuses, brief summaries, disappearing from sight, completely eradicating, safe sanctuaries, filling to capacity, flying through the air, lagging behind, new beginnings and new construction, vacillating back and forth and overused clichés?
Then there is the other side of the language spectrum where we shorten words either unnecessarily or unnaturally. They are replete in the crime dramas we love on television. By now we all should know about perps and vics (perpetrators and victims) and if you are into “Criminal Minds” and the pursuit of serial killers, you know that the unsub is the person they are after. I didn’t know it meant “unknown subject” when I first heard it either. I think they could have stuck with perp.
Finally, on another language subject, it seems I’m hearing and reading a lot about “foodies” these days. Sometimes it just applies to people who like food, which is pretty much all of us, and other times it seems to mean people who are really knowledgeable about food, including chefs and gourmets. That would fit the definition “a person devoted to refined, sensuous enjoyment of food” I found on one updated dictionary.
I think foodie comes across as a little too cutesy to describe anyone serious about anything. We’re all serious about eating and what we should be eating, as we are about sleeping, breathing and thinking. Guess that makes us all “sleepies,” “airies” and “thinkies.”
I’m afraid I’m straying far afield from the topic I started out with, but, after all, that’s part of my skill set. The end result here is that I’ve reached the final end and ultimate conclusion of my thoughts for this time period. If this column hasn’t met your favorable approval, I’ll do my best to give you full satisfaction next time.
Wes Skillings is a Pennsylvania-based copywriter whose recent emergence into this field brings a freshness and vitality that will make the words on your website, newsletter, direct mail marketing or news release reach out and grab the customer base you are seeking.