‘Completely Destroyed?’ Destroyed is Enough!


The other day, one of my colleagues at the real job caught a script about a house fire that contained the phrase ‘completely destroyed.’

There are certain clichés and phrases that immediately set me off. The phrase completely destroyed is one of them.

When my colleague spotted the phrase in a script, he quickly removed the word completely.


The same reason he would have removed the word totally if it preceded completely: the extra word is redundant.

Writers of all levels of experience can accidentally let their defenses down and the result is a redundancy that can be embarrassing.

Unfortunately, there are some redundancies that have become so embedded in our brains that we sometimes lose sight of the fact that the phrases are actually repeating themselves.

The key is ‘destroyed.’

If you Google the word destroyed, you’ll find these three definitions:

  • put an end to the existence of (something) by damaging or attacking it.
  • ruin (someone) emotionally or spiritually.”he has been determined to destroy her”
  • defeat (someone) utterly.

Merriam-Webster has similar definitions

To end something’s existence, to ruin or defeat utterly all imply the worst-case scenario, not something that is recoverable.

People seem to think the should use words like completely or totally to emphasize that the destruction is complete. But they shouldn’t.

These same people might be tempted to use a phrase like “partially destroyed.” This is also incorrect.

That’s like saying “slightly dead.” Either you are or you aren’t.

Something that one might describe as “partially destroyed” isn’t destroyed at all. It’s damaged. Damage, unlike destruction, can be partial or total. Destruction, on the other hand, is total.

So if you’re going to use the word destroyed, please don’t add a qualifier before it. That one word definitely doesn’t need any help: it says it all.


  1. Taken in context here, ” That one word definitely doesn’t need any help: it says it all,” I would argue that the word “definitely” is not necessary, either. If the word doesn’t need any help at all, I’d think that was definite without saying so. 🙂

      1. I actually like your use of the adverb in question. I might have dropped “any” from the sentence, instead.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.