91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

TWTS: Much ado about "ado"

There are some language and grammar rules that are impossible to forget, no matter how long ago we learned them. It can also be hard to forget that some of these rules aren’t black and white. “I before E, except after C” anyone?

Listener Cynthia Card has been thinking about a rule she learned in a speech class she took “many, many moons ago.”

“We were penalized if we said ‘without further ado,’ as it was considered redundant and showed lack of preparation. To this day, I cringe whenever I hear it, and I hear it often from speakers at conferences, on the TV and many podcasters.”

Though not everyone cringes when they hear this phrase, some people do have definite ideas when it comes to “without further ado.” There are some rules out there, but whether they’re hard and fast seems to be up to the speaker.

The word “ado” on its own goes back to the phrase “at do.” The earliest evidence we have of it is in Scottish English in the 1300s. You can find it used in places where we would likely use “to do” such as, “I have plenty ado.”

Before long, “ado” came to mean “activity,” and it was often modified by words like “great” or “much.” That’s probably how it comes to develop the meaning “fuss” or “an excessive display.”

So, when you say “without further ado,” you’re technically saying “without any more fuss. In other words, it’s time to get to the important part. It’s unlikely though that when someone uses this phrase, they’re dismissing everything they’ve said up to that point.

As far as whether there’s any wrong with saying “without further ado,” there are several forms of criticism out there. Some say it’s a cliché, which it definitely is. Some, like Cynthia’s speech instructor, say it signals a lack of preparedness. Others say it’s filler and unnecessary.

However, Professor Anne Curzan thinks there’s an argument to be made in favor of “without further ado.”

“If you’re doing opening remarks, ‘without further ado’ signals that the important thing is about to happen. So, if you’re sitting in the audience and maybe not paying full attention to the introduction, your attention has now been focused.”

In the end, whether to use “without further ado” is up to you. No need for any ado.

Stay Connected
Anne Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.
Rebecca Kruth is the host of All Things Considered at Michigan Public. She also co-hosts Michigan Public's weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
Related Content