Department of Redundancy Department

red Regeneration symbolRedundancy in writing occurs when a writer says the exact same thing twice and repeats herself.Repeat-symbol-icon1

While there are elegant uses of repetition, repetition that clarifies a point, repetition that emphasizes a point, and repetition that adds rhythm and euphony to a sentence, more often than not, repetition is used mistakenly to say the same thing again and again repetitively.

For instance, I try to go to sleep by twelve midnight and I like to eat my midday luncheon at twelve noon. In the morning, I’ve been writing the history of the life of Ellen Wasserman; in the afternoon, I take my young puppy for a walk by circling around the field.

One could say that circling around is one and the same. Personally, I think I would agree and have a consensus of opinion, but the purpose of this post is to demonstrate and show my readers how tiresome and tedious it is to reading something again and again, twice.

Samuel Johnson advised writers to “avoid ponderous ponderosity.” Here’s how:

  1. Avoid wordy phrases, like the ones I used above: Personally, I think I would agree and history of the life of (biography). Other examples are as far as I’m concerned, because of the fact that, have a tendency to, and such phrases people use to beef up their word count – and put their readers to sleep.100px-Repeatsign.svg
  2. Avoid the obvious. Examples from above include young puppy (is there any other kind?), twelve midnight and twelve noon (midnight, noon), midday luncheon and circle around. Other examples include cooperate together, personal opinion, free gift, new innovations and my favorite: past history.
  3. Avoid pairing synonyms (even though many people do): exact same, each and every, one and the same, longer in length, actual fact, again and again.

dll2013Deborah Lee Luskin an award-winning author, a radio commentator, and an educator who has been teaching writing for nearly thirty years.


27 thoughts on “Department of Redundancy Department

  1. This is an excellent article. I know I am guilty of at least half of these more because I’m used to writing like I speak. It opens up so many grammatical faus pas as I look for the method that will make my writing sound more interesting or fresh but you’ve shown through these great examples how tiresome it is to read! The other day, I was reading a transcript of a lecture and the person kept verbally repeating whole phrases or using questionable sentence structure because (again) he was speaking and writing at the same time. It ruins the flow and makes the reader bored. I’ll use these tips to get better…thanks!

  2. This made me smile. I’m a university lecturer and I teach study skills to my first year Geography students. The theme of last week’s tutorials was ‘Effective Writing’, where I emphasised the need for brevity. I tried to convince my students that if they got rid of the redundant words, they could squeeze so much more value out of their limited word counts. ‘Think of what you could do with 1500 words, if you didn’t use circumlocution and tautology and repetition’, I told them. Some of them looked at me strangely. I had explained those words, so that wasn’t the problem. Then it clicked. They write in circles going round and round saying the same thing over and over before their twelve noon essay deadlines because they’re making up for a lack of research and work. For my students redundancy is the padding they need to write to the word count. And here I am, academic writer, blogger, creative fiction writer, wannabe novel writer, striving for brevity and purity and the elimination of all those unnecessary words that find their way into too many of my sentences. I have to remind myself that I was a student once too!

    • 1,500 words! Give them 500 so they can’t afford to be redundant! And keep up the good work teaching people to write clearly! All best, DLL

  3. Great article! Those seem like very basic things, but I catch myself being redundant all the time! I wish I had a classroom to share this with because I used to see this in my students’ writing all of the time.

  4. Great article – sometimes when we try to fill the page, we forget to make our point succinct. Though I clearly watch too much kid’s TV because what immediately comes to mind is the awesome PBS kids’ show WordGirl, in which one of the villains is Lady Redundant Woman. She works in a copy shop and has an evil copy of herself named Dupie.

    • My kids are all grown up, so I didn’t know about this show. Sounds great; I’ll have to watch it!
      Thanks for your comments, DLL

  5. Pingback: Blog: What is 'degenerate' play strategy'? | eegbusiness

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