Verbiage: A Word Most Foul

In Abbott and Costello’s legendary Bagel Street routine, whenever the word Susquehanna is mentioned, all hell breaks loose.

That’s sort of how I feel when I hear the word verbiage.

People often use verbiage when they mean text or copy. “We need to change this verbiage,” or “We should add some verbiage here.”

By definition, verbiage refers to something that’s excessively wordy, or as M-W puts it “A profusion of words usually of little or obscure content.”

To be sure, it’s a common error. I was in a meeting recently where the V-bomb was dropped four times in just half an hour. Instead of going Susquehanna on them, I kept my mouth shut and tried to look interested.

Worse yet is when people say verbage, a made up word that’s a combination of verbiage and garbage. As a professional, I’ll be the judge of what’s verbiage and what’s verbage. And what is neither.

Let’s be clear, I’m not being a language snob. My grammar and usage is nothing to write home about. Not throwing a stapler at someone who misuses the word verbiage — or smashing their Susquehanna hat — is what separates us from the wild beasts.

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