The Language Perfectionist: It’s Personal!

Can you spot anything wrong with the following three sentences, all found via online search?

  • “I personally can’t see us not doing any more shows again.”
  • “Personally, I prefer to write about literature, but, yes, I recognize that these sorts of entries are the bread and butter of this blog.”
  • “I will cherish the personally autographed book forever….”

In each case, the word personally is superfluous. After all, how else could the first individual perceive the situation, or the second prefer to write? And how would one autograph a book without doing so personally?

In his new usage guide The Accidents of Style, Charles Harrington Elster advises:

Personally is almost always a redundant filler word that cries out to be deleted.” And most sentences “would be stronger without the useless adverb personally.”

Elster adds that the adjective personal is equally redundant and dispensable in such well-worn expressions as personal friend, personal history, and personal opinion.

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]