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I was looking up the term "no-nonsense and got the following synonyms:

earnest, grave, humorless, no-nonsense, po-faced [British], sedate, severe, sober, sobersided, solemn, staid, uncomic, unsmiling, weighty

Words like sedate, grave, and humorless all make no-nonsense sound like a negative word, but I don't think that has to be the case. Same story with no-frills:

austere, spartan, stark

Again, these make no-frills sound like a bad thing. Austere and spartan are rarely used in a complimentary sense.

But I don't think that has to be the case! I know that a no-nonsense car is going to deliver something that's simple and effective. A no-frills car would get me from point A to point B without trying to upsell me on crazy features and trendy marketing.

So, is there a word to describe something that is 'no-nonsense' or 'no-frills' that would put it in a positive light?

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Serious is the usual way to describe it. The underlying concept of "no nonsense" is that humor (or any overt evidence of having fun) detracts from important concerns. "No frills" means no decoration, which is from the same anhedonic frame. If what you want is to strip things down to basics, use a different metaphor, like building: foundation, structure, process, design, efficiency, etc. – John Lawler May 3 '14 at 15:10
up vote 3 down vote accepted

You might use businesslike or practical. Also, premium is used with different meanings. And utilitarian is not too pejorative.

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Not sure about the other one but I like practical. – markmnl May 3 '14 at 15:25
The term for no-nonsense, hard-wearing, plain and safe shoes in the UK is always 'sensible'. – Edwin Ashworth May 7 '14 at 18:39


direct; not roundabout: a straightforward approach to a problem. free from crookedness or deceit; honest: straightforward in one's dealings.]1

Men and women are often referred to as straightforward, and it reflects a no-nonsense, and honest personality -the antonym is devious

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To-the-point or minimalist? (Though I like spartan - I do not find it has negative connotations).

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I think functional may also be an alternative:

  • Capable of performing; operative: a functional set of brakes.
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Consider "utile."

utile: (also useful) : of practical use; producing material results; supplying common needs.

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You can use "bare bones" which is used in a lot of technology, such as "bare bones" computer, bare bones car design, etc.

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Could you provide examples from the net (with links) to back up your answer? It will lend credibility to your answer. – Mari-Lou A May 4 '14 at 5:36

For "no-nonsense" or "no-frills" I would use these words:

efficient | performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort; having and using requisite knowledge, skill, and industry; competent; capable

forthright | going straight to the point; frank; direct; outspoken

Pragmatic may also be a good choice.

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While there are words for "no-nonsense" and "no-frills", (to the best of my knowledge) they have all picked up negative connotations over the years, Consequently, it would be preferable to use a positive modifier such as "pleasingly" in front of any of the synonyms to negate their unwanted connotations.

"I found him to be pleasingly forthright."

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I consider sensible to be a positive word that fits what you're describing.

Reasonable and practical

  • a. sensible clothes or shoes are practical and comfortable instead of fashionable

  • b. if you eat a sensible diet, you eat healthy food that does not contain too much of anything

Characterized more by usefulness or practicality than by fashionableness.

If you drive a sensible car, it shows that you had the sense to buy a car that fits your needs, without all of the faddy bells and whistles that eventually break or become outdated.

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