Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Grammar

It’s “At This Point In Time!” But Stop Using It!

How many times have you heard someone attempt the phrase, “At this point in time,” only to get it wrong? Now’s the time to kill two birds with one stone.

There are two things I hope to accomplish with this little grammar post. The first is to clear up some apparent confusion about a particular phrase. The second is to persuade you to stop using it regardless of how well you know it.

First things first: let’s get it right.

I was looking at websites offering services related to blogging the other day, and I came upon one I was interested in, only to find an announcement that the service was being eliminated as of July 1st.

So much for that.

What jumped out at me on the announcement, though, was this sentence:

At this point of time the apps, the service, the plugins will cease to work.

Point of time?

Well, I hate to kick someone while they’re down, but even their farewell didn’t go well.

The phrase is at this point in time, meaning “at this particular moment.”

It’s one of those phrases we hear more than we see, and if you remember back to that little game we played in elementary school where a teacher would whisper something into the ear of a student, who’d then whisper the message to the next person in line, and so on, and so on, you’ll likely recall that when the message reached the last student, it was no longer anything near the same message.

Our hearing, while amazing biotechnology, is one of the least efficient ways to take in information. So even with the best of intentions, what we think we hear isn’t necessarily correct.

The announcement should have said:

At this point in time the apps, the service, the plugins will cease to work.

Oddly enough, that’s not the error I see most often: what I usually see is “at this point and time.”

But if the phrasing sounds correct to you, the redundancy should set you off. If “at this point and time” were right, you’d only need either, “at this point” or “at this time.” 

Not both.

Step two: Drop the phrase altogether.

Now that you know what the phrase is supposed to be, it’s time to ditch it.

Why?

There are some phrases that just seem to scream, “I’m trying to sound official!”

At this point in time is one of them. It is needlessly long.

Consider these examples and the alternatives:

“At this point in time, we are not accepting applications.”
“We are not currently accepting applications.”

“We are not able to release any new information at this point in time.”
“We are not able to release any new information.”

“At this point in time, the apps will no longer work.”
“The apps will no longer work as of that date.”

Dropping at this point in time in favor of shorter phrases, especially now when “now” is what you’re really trying to say, makes your writing shorter and more concise.

That makes it easier to read.

And that makes you more easily understood.

Why wouldn’t you want that?

8 Comments

  1. I’m reading an article that I believe you will find interesting. I am changing the names to protect the…well, I am changing the names.

    “We’re not going to discuss any of the details of our proposal at this point and time,” Fred said. “Obviously, if we are moving forward, if [the area Fred governs] is in the final running to get this, at that point of time, we will have everything open for people to have a discussion about.”

    Sigh.

  2. Scoot over a little, so i can jump on your “anti-point in time” bandwagon. This is my most-hated spawn of the Bureau of Redundancy Department; I seem to recall hearing it for the first time back in the 80s. Or maybe the 90s, perhaps. It was a guy in coat and tie, standing in front of a microphone at an impromptu press conference for some disaster or other. As you suggest, the speaker was self-consciously adjusting his mantle of authority, padding sketchy information with as many words as possible. He may have picked it up from a print journalist (we still had journalists back then) who was paid by the word.

    It used to be “at this point” or “at this time”, but the dreaded prepositional bifurcation generates an extra half second of face time before the camera or four cents on the bottom line. Since points technically exist in space, my preference would be for the latter, or some other reference to the fourth dimension. But either is preferred to both.

    1. Happy to make room for you, Mike! Thanks for the comment. And yes, I agree that “at this point” or “at this time” are at least slightly better than the longer version!

  3. What bugs me about the phrase is that there are no points in time. Time is a continuim. No matter how short a moment is, time still moves from one instant to the next. It never stops at any point.

    1. The phrase implies, “as of now,” but while I see your point, I think there are definite points in time. I agree that time doesn’t end, but you can refer to specific points within a timeline and that’s the clear implication to the phrase. Time doesn’t have to stop for you to be able to refer to a date, an hour or a specific moment in which something occurred.

  4. You will love this one. I’m editing a power point presentation.
    One bullet point reads: Point-in-time vs historical information

    I’m cutting it to read: Current vs historical information

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 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.