Circumlocution: Too Many Words

People often say something using more words than required, usually to be vague or misleading. This phenomenon, known as circumlocution, is often intentional and a ploy used by politicians and salesmen to be evasive or to confuse the listener(or buyer).

A lengthy, wordy response is often used to hide the fact that they don’t really want to answer the question directly, or don’t have the answer for it in the first place.

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Circumlocution: When People Use Too Many Words - Effectiviology

effectiviology.com

The act of saying a lot but in essence saying nothing at all is also described as ‘beating around the bush’ by many.

People use too many words intentionally in order to:

  1. Hiding their stance.
  2. Shifting attention away from the current topic.
  3. Avoiding answering personal questions.
  4. Avoid sharing the truth.

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Many of us use circumlocution unintentionally or in situations that are harmless, using way too many words when we:

  1. Don’t know the exact phrase or word.
  2. Are speaking and thinking at the same time.
  3. Are avoiding using technical jargon.
  4. Are feeling awkward discussing something.
  5. Are being polite to the other person by using familiar phrases.
  6. Are creating a rhyme or a literary effect.
  7. Are learning to communicate in a foreign language.

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If the other person is using more words than required, we need to understand how much of a misleading act it is, and how much of it is genuine or unavoidable. We also need to see if the use of too many words has some valid reason or not.

We can use Hanlon's Razor, which would mean that we don’t need to assume that the intentions of the person using too many words is negative, provided there is a good explanation.

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  1. Simply call out the use of extensive words, and demonstrate to the other person that they are in fact saying nothing.
  2. When a direct question is being non-answered, directly point out the problematic behaviour in the person, by stating that the question hasn’t been answered.
  3. Observe and take note of the behaviour but do not say anything.

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  1. Think and form sentences before you start to speak.
  2. Try to make your words concise and simplified.
  3. Learn new words and phrases to create better expressions.

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  • Equivocation is a relatively similar rhetorical technique, which involves using fancy, ambiguous language to avoid clarity, like the ones we see when we read the terms and conditions.
  • Gish Gallop is like a DDOS attack, where a whole lot of rhetorical and circumlocutions are sent to the opponent with the intention of overwhelming the person, even if the arguments carry no accuracy or relevance.

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