What Is Verbosity? | Definition & Examples

Rhetoric updated on  February 18, 2024 3 min read

Verbosity is the quality of being excessively wordy in writing or speech. Verbose sentences can always be made shorter and simpler.

Verbosity example
“If you really want to know, I’m late today because I forgot to lock my front door and I had to go all the way back after I had already left for work, and then I drove over a nail in the road, which gave me a flat tire, and roadside assistance didn’t come for another hour.”

A concise version of this sentence would be, “I’m late because I got a flat tire.”

“Verbosity” comes from the Latin word verbosus, which means wordy.

What is verbosity?

If something is verbose, it uses more words than needed to get a point across. Verbosity is the state of being verbose. Often, the extra words in a verbose sentence are unnecessary.

Verbosity is a quality that many writers try to avoid, as several style guides warn against excessive wordiness. In writing, verbosity can contribute to confusion on the part of the reader, with the meaning of a sentence becoming muddled by so many words.

Excessive verbosity can also be a negative trait in speech, as it can delay important information being passed from one person to another. It can also be a cause of distraction for the listener.

However, some writers are intentionally verbose. This is a stylistic choice that can be used to build characterization or break out of conventional writing practices. Intentional verbosity is more common in creative writing than, say, scientific or other academic writing.

Tip
If you’re worried about being verbose in your own writing, try Shorten mode in QuillBot’s Paraphraser. It’s designed to get rid of unnecessary words, or “fluff,” ensuring your writing is clear and concise.

Verbosity examples

Verbosity is often used as a character trait in literature and film.

Verbosity example in book
Holden Caulfield, the protagonist in The Catcher in the Rye, is a rambling, self-absorbed, and judgmental character. He often chatters on about a topic longer than necessary.

“I’m a very light eater. I really am. That’s why I’m so damn skinny. I was supposed to be on this diet where you eat a lot of starches and crap, to gain weight and all, but I didn’t ever do it. When I'm out somewhere, I generally just eat a Swiss cheese sandwich and a malted milk. It isn't much, but you get quite a lot of vitamins in the malted milk.”

A more concise way of saying this would be, “I’m a light eater, which is why I’m so skinny.” However, Holden is a jaded teenage boy who thinks about himself way too much. His wordiness shows his personality.

Verbosity example in movie
A character dubbed “Know It All” from The Polar Express is so verbose that he annoys everybody on the train. One of his most defining characteristics is getting side-tracked and over-explaining things, hence the name “Know It All.”

“Hey, you missed it. We rode down some really sharp hills. And then, we were on what looked like a frozen lake. But I know it was just an optical illusion caused by moonlight atmosphere. He said the train was actually on the ice, but I said it was impossible because you can't put a train track …”

A simpler way of saying this would be, “We rode down some big hills, and then it looked like we were driving on a frozen lake.”

Do you want to know more about common mistakes, commonly confused words, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


Idioms

Parts of speech

Fallacies

Diamond in the rough

Irregular verb

Slippery slope fallacy

Idioms

Gerund

Sunk cost fallacy

Piece of cake

Infinitive phrase

Red herring fallacy

Better late than never

Infinitive

Appeal to authority fallacy

Salt of the earth

Adverb

Circular reasoning fallacy


Frequently asked questions about verbosity

How do you use verbosity in a sentence?

An example of the word verbosity being used in a sentence is:

“Her verbosity was off-putting to her classmates, who just wanted to finish their work in silence.”

What is an antonym for verbosity?

A few antonyms and near-antonyms of verbosity are:

  • Brevity
  • Conciseness
  • Succinctness
  • Terseness
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Paige Pfeifer

Paige teaches QuillBot writers about grammar rules and writing conventions. She has a BA in English, which she received by reading and writing a lot of fiction. That is all she knows how to do.

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