Red Pen Diaries: Department of Redundancy Department

Red Pen Diaries: Advice and Observations on Writing and the English LanguageUsing redundant words and phrases can cause unintentional hilarity as well as sap your writing of its strength.

In a previous Red Pen Diaries, I wrote about the redundant use of the word "dollars." Other common redundancies are often the result of acronyms, such as "PIN number" (personal identification number number) or "ATM machine" (automatic teller machine machine). Still others are obvious only upon closer examination, such as "7 AM in the morning" or "fellow co-workers."

Most people tend to overwrite at first. In the post below this one, I originally wrote "the widow of an old comb salesman who had died." That's either redundant (if she's his widow, we know the salesman is dead) or unclear (who died – the widow or the salesman?). Whatever the case, "who had died" was needless verbiage.

It always pays to go back with an eye toward pruning the dead weight of unnecessary, redundant words that muck up your message and tire the reader. Ideally, another, fresher set of eyes can help you cut the dead weight and strengthen the impact of your writing.

11 comments:

Him said...

Heh. I took it to mean that it was the widow who had died.

From the world of the Cicerones: palate/palette! AAAaargh!

Also, sight/site/cite....

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