How To Avoid Using The Word ‘But’

Do you avoid using the word ‘but’?

I was teaching a business writing skills workshop a few weeks ago and a participant said she avoids the word ‘but’ at all cost and wanted my opinion… so… here it is.

Most people avoid using ‘but’ as an attempt to avoid being negative… or to soften the delivery of a message. But, most often changing that one little word isn’t going to help much… especially if the actual structure / tone of the message is negative. The better solution is to use positive, benefit driven language.

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.10.09 PMUsing Positive, Benefit Driven Language

To overcome negativity, it’s best to rewrite the sentence using positive, benefit driven language; for example:

Before: “I know you would like a raise, but if you miss your annual targets you won’t get one.” 

After V1: “I will be able to give you a raise but first you have to hit your annual targets.”

or… without using ‘but’

After V2: “I will be able to give you a raise as soon as you have hit your annual targets.”

The positive message makes everyone feel better – and it has nothing to do with avoiding using the word ‘but’. In addition, I believe that when we write in a positive, benefit driven manner our reputation will benefit.

Using Positive, Benefit Driven Language AND The Word ‘but’:

This sentence sounds quite positive to me – and manages the readers’ expectations while also outlining a promise.

I’m happy to share business writing best-practices, but to be good at positive language you’ll have to practice.”

In addition to benefit driven language sounding better, benefit driven language is also much more scarce… which is an opportunity for you to stand out.

So, now that we’ve discussed that you don’t need to avoid using ‘but’, if you are still committed to that goal here are some alternatives:

  • ‘Remove the word all together – skip it’
  • Except
  • Besides
  • However
  • Nonetheless
  • Otherwise
  • Unfortunately
  • Instead 
  • While
  • On the other hand
  • Meanwhile
  • Although
  • Nevertheless
  • Still
  • Though
  • Yet
  • Having said that
  • In view of the aforementioned issues

And don’t forget the opportunity to use ‘and’.  ‘And’ is a favourite most everyone enjoys using because it’s a simple replacement. In addition, ‘And’ is also a great alternative because it suggests a positive perspective (often prefacing a ‘but’) with the constructive/learning/observational area of the communication.

Happy business writing and communicating. 

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About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

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