Writers sometimes need to present basic or well-known information to their readers. And they often preface such information with phrases like “of course,” “needless to say,” or “it goes without saying.” The style expert Roy H. Copperud notes that phrases like “of course” are sometimes warranted, to concede that what is being said is both necessary for the argument and also widely known among readers. This prevents the writer from sounding either inexperienced or overly didactic. But he also argues that every such phrase should be carefully weighed, and writers should consider whether these phrases are really necessary (271). More often than not, they can be discarded.

If a phrase like “of course” is used before information or arguments that are not actually widely known among the audience for your work, or are perhaps subject to disagreement, then the phrase should be omitted. Phrases like “needless to say” and “it goes without saying” should be used sparingly, if ever; the critical reader might ask, If it goes without saying, then why say it at all? Similarly, phrases like “it is worth noting” can almost always be deleted. Everything in your work should be worth noting—or else you wouldn’t be saying it! 

See also our post on avoiding filler phrases.

Work Cited

Copperud, Roy H. American Usage and Style: The Consensus. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1980.

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Joseph Wallace

Joseph Wallace copyedits articles for PMLA and writes posts for the Style Center. He received a PhD in English literature from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before coming to the Modern Language Association, he edited articles for Studies in Philology and taught courses on writing and early modern literature.