How To Avoid Redundancy

What is Redundancy?

Writing is called redundant when it is repetitious or over uses words, phrases or sentences to express one idea. A synonym of redundancy is pleonasm.

A way to determine if a phrase or sentence is redundant is to ask if the phrase/sentence conveys the same meaning without a particular part.

Let’s look at some examples and see why each is redundant. First, from the human body:

~ John nodded his head.

~ John blinked his eyes.

~ John shrugged his shoulders.

Of course he nodded his head, blinked his eyes, shrugged his shoulders. What other body part can a person nod, blink or shrug?  “John nodded” or “John blinked” or “John shrugged” convey the same meaning with fewer words.

From action:

~ John shouted loudly.

~ John whispered softly.

~ John ran swiftly.

In each case, the addition of an adverb doesn’t add value to the sentence because it means the same thing as the verb. Can you shout any way but loudly?

From motion:

~ John climbed up the stairs.

~ John descended down the stairs.

~ John rose up from the chair.

~ John sank down into the water.

Poor John. All those extra ups and downs must be exhausting.

From common phrases – Since John is tired, can you run a redundancy check on the pleonasms below? [wink]

The end result….repeated over and over….past experience….new innovations….asked the question….unexpected emergency…true facts….curious in nature…few in number…I myself…advancing forward…retreating back

An unexpected emergency is redundant. An unexpected pregnancy is not.

A more complex form of redundancy occurs when a writer repeats an idea by phrasing it in multiple ways. Sometimes this is a style choice, and the writer is using emphasis for effect.

For example, this writer wants to let the reader know a room is dark. Really dark. Soooo dark. So she writes it and repeats it and repeats it again:

John stumbled into the room. It was dark as pitch. He couldn’t see his hand in front of his face. There was no light whatsoever.”

The sentences describing the darkness don’t sound alike, but all three are about the absence of light, couched in different words. Is that necessary? Is the dark room important enough to need three sentences to impress it upon the reader?

If you’re unsure about a section, read it aloud. If by sentence number three, you are tempted to yell, “Okay, I get it! The room is dark!” your writing is redundant.

Redundancy clutters your writing and adds to the word count without adding anything of value to the story.

Check your writing. Have you said something over and over, and again and again?



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