Tips for Avoiding Redundancy

Tautologies pair synonymous words. “But” and “however” mean the same thing, so the phrase “but however” is redundant. A moment is by its nature brief, so we needn’t speak of a brief moment to be understood. You don’t have to explain the reason why when you can explain thereason, or when you can explain why.

Tautologies, sometimes called “baby puppies,” come in these forms:

  • The tautological adjective: a small smidgeon, annual birthday, glowing ember
  • The tautological double adjective: the pure unadulterated truth, a teeny tiny portion, the itsy bitsy spider
  • The tautological adverb: protrude out, rise up, dash quickly
  • The tautological double noun: Sahara Desert, cash money, switchblade knife
  • The tautological double conjunction: and also, but however
  • The tautological pair: each and every, forever and ever, the one and only.

To keep these puppies from nipping at your ankles:

  1. Read your copy carefully. Pause at the “invisible” words. “And” is invisible; “also” is invisible; “and also” is neither more nor less visible, unless you’re looking for it. Pause at word combinations. If you encounter a double noun, drop one to see if the sentence still makes sense; if an adverb-verb or adjective-noun, drop the modifier to see if you lose anything. If you can drop “advance” from “advance planning,” do it.
  2. Maintain an active vocabulary that is not only broad but also deep. Learn not just what words mean, but what they imply, what they embrace. Read not only for the sake of writing but also for the sake of the words; read to learn words. Look words up, but don’t stop there. Hunt words. As you read dictionary definitions, dig into their origins, their evolution and their current scope. You perhaps never looked up “pedal.” Common word, originating from the Latin root “ped,” or foot. So why do we say “foot pedal”? (As opposed to the elbow pedal?) Why do we note a “pedestrian on foot”?
  3. Analyze noy only what words mean, but also what they imply. Redundancy occurs when extra words either repeat what another word means or implies. An example of repetition of meaning: Facts are true, so the phrase “true facts” works under “false pretenses,” a phrase wrought from the same verbose construction. “I” and “myself” are the same person, so your saying “I myself” doesn’t make you any more you than you already are. An example of repetition of implication: By strict definition, facts don’t have to be known to be facts. There are plenty of facts about the universe — the exact number of stars, how the universe began, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood — that we don’t know. Still, the word “facts” implies information that we know, so “known facts” and “established facts” are usually redundant.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the enemy — and there are thousands of enemies.

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