Let me explain: If anyone is thinking, it is to him/herself, so “to himself” and “to herself” are redundant. Simply say “he thought” or “she thought”.
Self editing is a skill all writers should have and even though it’s impossible to know everything, learning what to look for can go a long way.
There are numerous phrases in everyday language that can be shortened and I’ve listed a few below. I hope you’ll find some “ah ha” items in this list that can help you trim redundancies out of your work in progress.
A faulty miscalculation –> A miscalculation (is there any ‘perfect’ miscalculation? no, they’re all faulty)
Basic fundamentals –> Basics *or* fundamentals
Completely destroyed –> Destroyed (if it’s completely destroyed, it is destroyed)
Free gift –> Gift
Full and complete –> Full *or* complete
Past history –> Past *or* history
Refer back –> Refer
Terrible tragedy –> Tragedy (is there ever a good tragedy?)
True facts –> Facts (if facts are false, they would be lies)
In editing manuscripts, I have fun discovering what a particular author uses consistently without realizing it.
The s/he thought to her/himself is the most common redundant phrase I find when reading published and unpublished manuscripts.
I’m always challenged to find redundancies, or any other issues, in my own work. As writers, we know what is in our head and we assume it’s what is on the page. Reading out loud and focusing on each individual word is a great way to find errors in writing, and keeping a list of redundant phrases that you come across will help you remain aware of them – and avoid them in your own writing.
I challenge you to start keeping a list of redundant phrases you come across in any piece of work, especially your own. Do you have any to share right now?
Lisa Jackson is an editor, writer, and chocolate lover. She’s addicted to Sudoku, cafés, and words. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis — and you can, too! © Lisa J. Jackson, 2011