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Isn't the term a bit condescending?

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"Needless to say" indicates that the reader already knows what is being said. This is the opposite of condescending (the writer expects the reader to know so much), but it can be embarrassing to the reader if he doesn't actually know what is being said ("who does the writer think he is, expecting that everyone knows more than I do?") — this can be insulting, but it's not exactly the same as condescending. –  ShreevatsaR Feb 2 '11 at 12:37
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It's better than what lawyers use on jurors; "Even an idiot in a hurry knows...", thus implying if you disagree with him/her you are dumber than an idiot in a hurry. –  MVCylon Feb 2 '11 at 14:17
    
This phrase is one of the reasons I love the way we humans communicate - quite frequently what it actually means "this really needs to be said"! –  mickeyf Feb 2 '11 at 15:16

5 Answers 5

up vote 15 down vote accepted

It could be construed that way, but it depends on what is said after it. If I said:

Needless to say, two plus two is four

you wouldn't find it condescending, because generally it is needless to say that two plus two is four.

If I said:

Needless to say, cribellate spiders have no need for glands producing hygroscopic adhesive.

You might, depending on your knowledge of spiders, disagree with the first clause and thus find it a little condescending.

It is up to you to judge your potential audience and tailor your writing to them.

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No, it just indicates that the writer expects the fact that follows to not be surprising to the reader. The Cambridge Dictionary Online describes the phrase as:

Needless to say: as you would expect; added to, or used to introduce, a remark giving information which is expected and not surprising.

Examples

1) The life and adventures of Martín Chuzzlerwit (Charles Dickens, 1844)

It has been rumoured, and it is needless to say the rumour originated in the same base quarters , that a certain male Cbuzzlewit, whose birth must be admitted to be involved in some obscurity, was of very mean and low descent.

2) The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus (Joel Chandler Harris, Richard Chase, 2002)

No typographical device could adequately describe Daddy Jack's imitation of the flushing of a covey of partridges, or quail; but it is needless to say that it made its impression upon the little boy.

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Though both these examples use the phrase as the complement of "it is", which is a rather unusual construction today. I think this is because the word "needless" is rather old-fashioned, and the ossified adverbial phrase is one place that it does survive. –  Colin Fine Feb 2 '11 at 13:56

I find it is quite the opposite. If you were to neglect to qualify an obvious statement with something like "needless to say", or "as you know", the reader might then feel like he is being condescended to because you are telling him/her information he/she already knows. By adding the qualifier, you establish some common ground, in essence saying "I know that you know what I'm telling you already, and I don't want to insult your intelligence, so please don't be offended."

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It is not condescending at all.

It is just a different set of words used to convey the same meaning as '...and hence it follows that ....'

If it were condescending, then the phrase '...last but not the least ...' would also be condescending to the person who is addressed last in some list. Does putting that word 'least' in there mean that there is someone in the room who thinks that person is the 'least' ?

Of course not !

It is just an expression used instead of saying '...it is thus obvious that...', '... it can thus be deduced that...' , '...it implies that...'

Needless to say, needless to say is not condescending at all.

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Needless to say, this phrase is context-sensitive.

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