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Is “let me say this on the outset” formal English in business-speak? What does it really mean?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

"Let me say this at the outset"

It's reasonable in a speech, but probably wouldn't be used in written English.
It means "let me make this clear at the start". Outset = setting out (as in a journey) = start.

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Let me say this at the outset is an odd construction. It is an informal way of expressing someone wishes to make a point clear before other points are made.

There are several alternatives that are equally colloquial and probably more common:

  • Let me make this clear. (Assertive, possibly confrontational in some contexts.)
  • Let's address this now. (Cooperative, objective.)
  • Allow me to be upfront about this. (Candid, frank.)
  • I should mention now that... (More informal, objective.)
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It's a strange phrasing; I would expect "Let me say this at the outset". It's a bit bombastic and only really appropriate to spoken English, but it's certainly formal enough for business use, if that's what you're after. It normally means that the speaker is calling attention to something that he or she believes should in some way be kept in mind as an important factor in whatever process is presently beginning.

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It's a bit like saying "Let me be frank." It's not terribly formal, and it's also an expression that you wouldn't understand unless you had already been explained what it meant, which is in general bad when you're goal is to be clear in business talks.

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protected by RegDwigнt Aug 2 '12 at 3:39

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