- On March 9, 2016
(That’s my attempt at writing a “Jeopardy”-like clue.)
A milestone is, by definition, an important event, advancement, or development. Merriam-Webster goes one step further and defines it as a very important event.
So why do we tend to embellish this word with superfluous adjectives like important, major, and significant? When we say something is an important milestone, we are, in effect, saying it’s an important important event.
Here are a few examples that have crossed my desk. I hope you agree we should leave well enough alone.
• It is important to celebrate major milestones that demonstrate our forward momentum in bringing this novel treatment to market.
o In this example, major is expendable (and so too is forward. If you have momentum, you are generally moving forward).
• The U.S. stock market kicked off the second half of 2014 by immediately passing several important milestones—the Dow Jones broke 17,000 in the first few days of July, and the S&P 500 is close to breaking 2,000, new all-time highs for both.
o Never mind that now, a year and a half later, things are going in the other direction, important is redundant.
• We’ve created a single loyalty program by bringing US Airways Dividend Miles members into the AAdvantage program. This is a very important milestone in our merger, and it puts us one step closer to operating as one airline.
o These two sentences could use a redo. Here’s how I would rewrite them—and why: We’ve brought US Airways Dividend Miles members into the AA Advantage program to create a single loyalty program—a milestone in our merger that puts us one step closer to operating as one airline.
I switched the order of the first sentence so single loyalty program—the significant event—and milestone are close together. And instead of ending the sentence after program, I opted for a dash. In this use, the dash says to the reader, “Pay attention, this is an important point worthy of emphasis.” Here, the punctuation mark and the thought are made for each other.