The Redundancy Blunder
Updated: May 6
Without being too wordy and as a longtime wordsmith, I’d like to offer a few words of caution about the use of words when repeating the same word in a sentence, or even a paragraph.
You might have noticed that I used the term “word” (and derivatives) five times in the above sentence. You might have guessed that the following comments will be directed toward redundancy.
Most courses or online guidelines for writing will counsel conciseness, noting that redundancy unnecessarily lengthens a manuscript. It also bores the astute reader and reveals an author’s pauce vocabulary. Proofreadnow.com counsels: “In your writing it is always a good practice to review the completed document with an eye toward avoiding saying the same thing twice. The use of redundant phrases in your writing is a habit worth breaking.”
While repeating the same word is one form of redundancy, another is the use of adverbs. Author Stephen King wrote: “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Examples that are redundancies: shouted loudly; raced hurriedly; whispered softly; deliberated thoughtfully; finished completely; true facts; basic fundamentals; past history. Even such a common phrase as “evolved over time” can be communicated with simply the word “evolved.”
The website writingcommons.org adds the following: “Sometimes writers have a habit of overusing adverbs, even if they do make sense. For instance, ‘Steve drove crazily, chaotically, and wildly down the highway, putting every other driver at risk.’ In this case, only one of the adverbs is necessary since they all have the same essential meaning. Because the reader gets the point with just one adverb, the additional ones are redundant.”
The point being made here dovetails with my blog a week ago on brevity. Eliminating repetition with the use of a varied vocabulary and adverb-consciousness holds the reader’s interest and makes for a more pleasing literary experience.