Insights… preferably not.

This is perhaps the worst offender in the list of words overused in English by Dutch writers. Undoubtedly because the nearest equivalent, inzicht, is hugely more common.

There’s no rule that says you can never use insight, of course. Just don’t overdo it. When you think you’re going to use the word, try to replace it at least 80% of the time, reserving it for the genuine ‘eureka’ moments. Or at least make it plural and generic.

  • try understanding or judgement instead when it’s about seeing how something functions
  • try perception or observation instead when it’s about seeing the nature of something
  • try natural phrases like get a picture of or get the drift of

If you want an example from native usage, well, I looked at the text of my own novel: 140k words, and insight doesn’t appear in the singular at all. Not once

Prevalence: very high. It rapidly became one of my pet hates. Every business document or scientific article is full of them.
Frequency: common. It won’t appear more than a couple of times in most documents. But it will appear at least once or twice in the vast majority.
Native: not really. The word obviously exists; the issue is that it gets overused badly by Dutch speakers (and native translators taking the easy option).

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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