200 Common Redundancies
Tips and ideas to eliminate repetition in our words and speaking.
One way to cut the clutter in our writing is to eliminate repetitious expressions. Because we so often see and hear redundancies (such as “free gifts” and “foreign imports”), they can be easy to overlook. Therefore, when editing our work, we should be on the lookout for needless repetition and be ready to eliminate expressions that add nothing to what has already been said.
Now does this mean that repetition must be avoided at all costs, or that good writers never repeat themselves? Certainly not. As discussed in Cohesion Strategies, careful repetition of
Our concern here is with eliminating needless repetition–redundant expressions that make writing longer, not better. Following are some of the common redundancies. In certain contexts, some of these phrases may serve a purpose. More often, however, the phrases just weigh down our writing with unnecessary words. We can eliminate the needless repetition in each case by omitting the word or phrase in parentheses.
Redundant expressions: Bad habits are hard to break
A bad practice in writing (and speaking) is redundancy. Anyone who has sat through a speech that goes round and round and uses the same few words over and over knows what I mean. We may sometimes do this deliberately, for stylistic reasons, or in order to raise the word count of an essay or report. But even when we strive to avoid repetition, we may be more redundant than we intend to be.
Is it absolutely necessary to stop at the automated teller machine machine?
Certain redundant expressions are so common that we tend to use them unconsciously, but if we want to improve our communication skills, it’s not a bad idea to make a conscious effort to avoid them.
Let’s take a look at some of these redundancies, beginning with absolutes: absolutely essential and absolutely necessary are redundant because essential and necessary have absoluteness built into their definitions. Likewise, very unique and exact duplicate are poor constructions because unique is as absolute as a word can be, and if a duplicate is not exact, it’s not a duplicate. Completely destroyed and completely empty are equally redundant.
Other redundancies are “extended abbreviations,” such as ATM machine, PIN number, UPC code, and HIVvirus. Were we to use these, we would be withdrawing money from the automated teller machine machine, inputting our personal identification number number to make a purchase, scanning Universal Product Code codes, and trying to find a cure for the human immunodeficiency virus virus.
Spot the redundant expressions
The best argument for avoiding redundant expressions is that the use of them implies the writer or speaker is either careless or unschooled in basic vocabulary. Consider the following story:
Mona had a difficult dilemma. She worked for a caterer, and from 9 a.m. in the morning until 12 noon, her job was to hand out free gifts at the mall. But her close personal friend Myrtle had just given birth to a baby girl, and she had promised to take care of Myrtle’s pair of twins while Myrtle was in the hospital. To Mona, the twins were annoying pests, but she would keep her promise. When Mona explained to her boss that Myrtle’s early delivery had come as an unexpected surprise, she could see the intense fury in his eyes. Silently, he prepared the different varieties of his decorative garnishes. The evil fiend then suddenly exploded and spelled out in detail why Mona was fired. Mona’s future prospects looked dim, as jobs were few in number. Mona now runs her own company, so getting fired may possibly have been her lucky break.
The preceding bit of fiction contains a whopping 18 redundant expressions. As the writer, I have revealed that either I am careless or I do not grasp that all dilemmas are difficult, a.m. = in the morning, and noon is always 12. Furthermore, when is a gift not free, or a close friend not personal? And if a just-born girl is not a baby, what on earth is she? As for the twins, it would be quite a trick if they were not a pair, and also, being pests, if they were not annoying.
If Myrtle’s delivery was an unexpected surprise, what, pray tell, would an expected surprise be? The intense fury (“intense intense anger”) in the boss’s eyes was probably no surprise, given that he was an evil fiend (“evil evil being”). And shame on his redundant food preparations: different varieties of decorative garnishes? If they’re not different, they’re not varieties; if they’re garnishes, they’re decorative. Just how would he have exploded if not suddenly, and is it possible to spell something out with no detail? Mona would be remarkable if she had prospects for the past rather than the future and if she found that jobs were few in something other than number. At least Mona’s story had a happy ending, even if its telling ends with a regrettable redundancy: may possibly (never use that one!).
With that, I absolutely definitely end here with positive certainty.
The opinions and other information contained in OxfordWords blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.A (absolutely) essential (absolutely) necessary (actual) facts advance (forward) (advance) planning (advance) preview (advance) reservations (advance) warning add (an additional) add (up) (added) bonus (affirmative) yes (aid and) abet (all-time) record alternative (choice) A.M. 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