In English, there are a lot of words for…words. From loquacious (used to describe someone who talks a lot) to vocabulary (a collection, usually of nouns and adjectives, that constitutes all the subjects a language can cover), English speakers know how to talk about talking, and writing, and reading.
That said, not all words are created equal. Within this category, there is a subcategory of words addressing spoken or written material which might sound impressive at first but doesn’t amount to much. Such is the case with “verbiage”—a noun referring to a text, like a speech or an essay, that gets lost in its own words. A text with verbiage is wordy, wandering, and generally more effective at obscuring its point than communicating it.
So how to use “verbiage”? And is it “verbage” or “verbiage”? Let’s take a closer look at this self-referencing noun.
Defining and using “verbiage”
The “verbiage” definition is essentially what we stated above—a collection of words that muddle the meaning of what they intend to say and are mostly unnecessary. Often an extra layer is that the text is full of jargon or industry-specific terminology that would make it difficult for a layperson to understand.
One common example is “legalese,” a disparaging description of legal verbiage that suggests the text revels in its own knowledge and is inaccessible to most readers.
Verbiage or verbage?
The word itself comes from the Latin verbus, meaning “word.” A word that is overly concerned with being a word, therefore, is unlikely to be helpful.
There is something of a “verbiage vs. verbage” debate, though “verbiage” is widely considered the proper spelling because it is more fluid to say and looks more pleasant on the page.
Here are some examples of how you might see “verbiage” in a sentence:
That article was full of verbiage; I found it hard to read.
I think you could do away with the verbiage and get to the point faster.
There’s a lot of verbiage here that readers might not understand.