Let's imaging this scenario: I added some texts to a document and deteriorated its cohesion and caused some confusion.

Can I say?

I messed up the document

  • 3
    – Xanne
    Aug 7, 2017 at 2:30
  • Thank you. Very good choice. Is "messed up" correct in an informal conversation?
    – MFR
    Aug 7, 2017 at 2:45
  • 1
    "Messed up the document" is fine informally. "damaged" is the word to used instead of "deteriorated", though.
    – Xanne
    Aug 7, 2017 at 3:26
  • Thank you. Please consider writing your answer below then I'll be able to accept it. Also, it would be great if you tell me what is wrong with deteriorated. :)
    – MFR
    Aug 7, 2017 at 3:40

3 Answers 3


overcomplicate definition--Oxford

verb [with object]

Make (something) more complicated than necessary. ‘the basic idea is quite simple but some people tend to overcomplicate it’ ‘an overcomplicated tax system’

Informally, you can say "I messed up the document." You'd want to use "damaged" instead of "deteriorated" because you need a transitive verb here, one that takes the object "its cohesion". "Deteriorate" doesn't take an object.

deteriorate (Oxford)


Consider using the words "Obfuscate" or "muddle" to denote what it is you want to convey.

"I have obfuscated the document with unnecessary information."

"No longer adhering to sound logical flow, I have muddled the document."

  • These are good suggestions. You should consider editing in links to dictionary entries, as well as brief definitions, in order to make this a better "stand-alone" answer.
    – vpn
    Aug 7, 2017 at 4:07

Yes, you COULD say that you “messed up the document,” as you asked in your request for a more descriptive word. But, to say that you “messed up the document” would be something more likely to be uttered verbally in casual conversation rather than to be inserted into a written document.

I also like, “over-complicated” since you mentioned that the adding of texts tended to deteriorate the document’s cohesion and cause some confusion.

One word that could be appropriately used here is, “cluttered,” since the "texts" you’ve inserted apparently have done more to clutter the document than to add meaningful content.

The word, “clutter,” could be appropriately used here as either an adjective or a verb.

VERB, to clutter: “My adding of the texts actually ended up cluttering the document, thereby making its message LESS clear rather than MORE.”

ADJECTIVE, cluttered:
“I added unnecessary content, which ended up causing the document to become cluttered and confusing.”

IN YOUR REQUEST, YOU ADDED, “it would be great if you tell me what is wrong with deteriorated.”

What is wrong with the verb, “deteriorated,” when used with the noun, “document,” is not that “deteriorated” is an intransitive verb and cannot take an object – IT CAN take an object. The verb, “to deteriorate” can be both transitive and intransitive.

The inappropriateness of the word, “deteriorate,” in your example has to do with its meaning.

The word, “deteriorate” means to make worse or make inferior in quality or value over time, or to impair (online Wiktionary, & Merriam Webster example: “Exposure to rain and sun will gradually deteriorate the paint.”)

To say that you deteriorated the document is not an appropriate use of the verb, “deteriorated,” because when you take into consideration the element of gradual degradation of quality, it just doesn’t work.

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    We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Please explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.
    – NVZ
    Aug 7, 2017 at 4:40

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