Last week I gave a few reasons for avoiding the overuse of famous(ly) in writing. This week’s word(s) to avoid: no doubt, doubt, undoubtedly.
I often read in scholarly writing something like, “This conclusion is no doubt . . . ” or “Scholar X is undoubtedly . . .” etc. To be fair, the sense of the “doubt” terms in those sentences is usually understood a bit looser than the meaning that literary there is no doubt whatsoever.
Even so I prefer the precision of reserving the phrase no doubt for case where there really is no doubt about it.
I definitely agree. I believe that CS Lewis’ advice about adjectives can be similarly applied:
“In writing, don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us the thing is ‘terrible,’ describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was ‘delightful’; make us say ‘delightful’ when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers ‘Please, will you do my job for me.’”
I find that Bible commentators like to use “no doubt” and “clearly” to attempt to convince the reader that the commentator’s opinion is valid. However, they are choosing to “tell” rather than “show.” Sometimes they are using these words to steal my job of drawing a conclusion — especially when my conclusion differs from theirs, and they’ve used “do doubt” to substitute for a well-reasoned argument.
*No doubt* they are sincere in their purpose, but *clearly* they could show more literary integrity.
Good words from Lewis. Good observation about commentators, too.
My favorite is when a commentator doesn’t want to touch a subject with a ten-foot pole, so he simply says it “deserves a book-length treatment” and then moves on.