A Few Kinds of Redundancy

By Michael Kandel

Déjà vu is not for you.

Often authors, not looking back as they write, do not see, or forget, that the point was already made, so they make it again:

In addition to describing in great detail the storks on the rooftops, he also devoted several paragraphs to the quaint East European thatching.

The conjunctive idea here has no need of repetition:

In addition to describing in great detail the storks on the rooftops, he devoted several paragraphs to the quaint East European thatching.

or

He not only described in great detail the storks on the rooftops but also devoted several paragraphs to the quaint East European thatching.

Block that synonym!

When you notice that one of two adjectives is superfluous, chose one and chuck the other.

Damion felt feeble and weak after his first half marathon.

could be

Damion felt feeble after his first half marathon.

or

Damion felt weak after his first half marathon.

Think before you write.

The context of a sentence may make a word unnecessary.

While visiting Khabarovsk on their honeymoon, the newlywed couple met an artisan tinsmith who was inordinately fond of skittles.

Since we know that the couple is on their honeymoon, “newlywed” is unnecessary. “Artisan” before “tinsmith” is also unnecessary, since tinsmithing is by nature artisanal:

While visiting Khabarovsk on their honeymoon, the couple met a tinsmith who was inordinately fond of skittles.

Not all redundancy is to be avoided—there may be a rhetorical reason to wax lexically excessive; there is for example the ancient and highly respectable trope pleonasm—but as a rule, if you reread with a critical eye what you have just put on the page (Is this word necessary? Is that word?), your prose will thank you.

Published 31 July 2017

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