The Annals of Redundancy Annals

Ever dig into a book with relish?

Scratch that. Dig into says “with relish.”

Ever dig into a book? The other night, my husband did just that. He had heard good things about it. He couldn’t wait to read it. He adjusted the lights for reading, settled into his recliner, cranked up his feet, and gave the author what every author dreams of: undivided attention. A few pages in, he pitched the book into the recycle bin. Why? Because it was filled with distractingly redundant writing like this:

And yet, the man thought to himself contradictorily…

Double duh! First, the man is thinking to himself. To whom else would he think? We don’t need himself. Second, the man is thinking contradictorily. How else would and yet cross his mind? We don’t need contradictorily. If the author had stopped at “And yet, the man thought,” my husband might have finished the book. And if the author had stopped at “And yet”—giving readers the satisfaction of figuring out that the man is thinking those words—my husband might, by now, be urging this book on his friends.

Eight words. Two words. Eight words. Two words. I could add “hands weighing,” but you don’t need that visual-verbal redundancy: you already picture the hands.

Here’s an example of visual-verbal redundancy that comes straight from my mailbox:

envelope | how to write

“See inside for details.” Somebody paid to have this line printed. On an envelope. Envelopes, in their very envelopeness, say, I envelop something. Guess where you can find it! Hint: It’s not here on the outside.

I’ve even run into aural-verbal redundancy. I used to work with a woman named Tina whose mother began every phone call this way: “HA-llo. DEE-na. DEES eez your MAH-ther.” Thanks for telling me, Ma. It could have been an impersonator.

Redundancy. Unhelpful duplication. Bryan A. Garner describes it as “the result of semiconscious writing” (Garner’s Modern American Usage 3rd ed., p. 701). Redundancy creeps into everyone’s writing. At best, it adds bloat. At worst, it insults readers’ intelligence.

We don’t intend to insult readers, so why do we do it? Because we’re thinking about our meaning, not our words. In the great stew of language, words with similar meanings stick together. When we dip into the pot, we often scoop out more than we need.

Examples

The examples listed below come from things I’ve read and heard (and said and written). Many come from these sources:

The alphabetical order serves no purpose other than to create alliteration. Think of this list as a poem—one worth reading. Aloud.

Adjectives

  • absolutely certain, absolutely essential, absolutely guaranteed, completely necessary, totally sure
  • bald-headed
  • best ever, first ever
  • blue in color, few in number, long in duration, nubbly in texture, round in shape, slovenly in appearance, short in height, slow in speed, small in size, tall in stature
  • booked solid
  • exact same, same exact, same identical
  • filled to capacity
  • incredible to believe, visible to the eye, warm to the touch
  • sufficient enough
  • whole entire

Nouns

  • actual experience, actual fact
  • added bonus
  • advance notice, advance planning, advance preview, advance reservations, advance warning
  • all-time favorite, all-time record
  • alternative choice
  • anonymous stranger
  • annual anniversary
  • armed gunman
  • artificial prosthesis
  • autobiography of her own life, biography of his life
  • balsa wood
  • basic essentials, basic fundamentals, basic necessities
  • big kahuna
  • brief moment
  • boat marina
  • bouquet of flowers
  • brief respite, brief summary
  • broad range, wide range
  • burning embers
  • cacophony of sound
  • cameo appearance
  • careful scrutiny
  • cash money
  • classification scheme comprising categories—better yet, hierarchical classification scheme comprising categories and subcategories
  • close proximity, close scrutiny
  • closed fist
  • color palette
  • component parts
  • consensus of opinion
  • core essence
  • crisis situation, emergency situation
  • current incumbent, current trend, current-state baseline
  • definite decision
  • desirable benefits
  • direct confrontation
  • diverse characters
  • end result
  • equal halves
  • ethical obligation
  • face mask
  • false pretense
  • fast speed
  • favorable approval
  • fellow classmate, fellow colleague
  • final conclusion, final ending, final outcome, final ultimatum
  • foreign imports
  • former graduate, former veteran, seasoned veteran
  • foundational starting point
  • free gift
  • frozen ice, frozen tundra
  • full satisfaction
  • future forecast, future plans, future goals, future recurrence
  • general consensus, general public
  • good cheer, good rapport
  • green grass, blue sky, white snow
  • handy tips
  • harmful injuries
  • head honcho
  • hollow tube
  • huge chasm
  • hushed silence
  • illustrated drawing
  • inevitable wave of the future
  • invited guests
  • joint collaboration
  • knowledgeable experts
  • little baby
  • live studio audience, live witness
  • local residents
  • loud roar
  • main focus, primary focus, central focus
  • major breakthrough
  • mental telepathy
  • mind-meld of both our heads
  • minestrone soup, pizza pie, tuna fish
  • minor quibble
  • mutual advantage of both, mutual cooperation, mutual interdependence, mutual respect for each other
  • nape of the neck, palm of the hand, sole of the foot
  • native habitat
  • natural instinct
  • new beginning, new construction, new innovation, new invention, new recruit, new news
  • none at all
  • nostalgia for the past
  • number-one leader
  • official regulations
  • old adage, old classic, old custom, old proverb, old cliché
  • open trench
  • oral conversation
  • pair of twins
  • passing fad
  • past history, past memory, past record
  • personal friend, personal favorite, for me personally
  • pivotal turning point
  • polar opposites
  • poisonous venom
  • positive identification
  • prearranged appointment, predefined terms, preestablished rules, preplanned activity, prerecorded music
  • previous experience
  • private industry
  • proactive support
  • proposed plan
  • record of errors recorded
  • regular routine
  • required requirements
  • safe haven, safe sanctuary
  • sand dune
  • several different kinds
  • serious crisis, serious danger
  • sharp point
  • short hop
  • single unit
  • small compact woman
  • small handful
  • sneak peek
  • specific area of knowledge, specified specifications
  • state of confusion
  • stuffed cabbage rolls
  • sudden explosion, sudden impulse
  • sum total
  • temper tantrum
  • temporary reprieve
  • therapeutic treatment
  • three separate buildings
  • three-way love triangle
  • timpani drums
  • tired cliché, old cliché
  • top three most important criteria
  • trained technician
  • true fact, hard fact, cold fact
  • two-way conversation
  • ultimate goal
  • undergraduate student
  • underground subway
  • unexpected surprise
  • unintentional mistake
  • universal panacea
  • unfilled vacancy
  • usual custom
  • vast sweep
  • venerable old edifices
  • visual diagram, visual image
  • vocabulary of terms
  • wall mural
  • weather conditions
  • win-win situation for both sides

Verbs

  • add an additional
  • aid and abet, cease and desist, pick and choose
  • allow you to be able to
  • always include
  • ascend up, connect up, heat up, hoist up, hurry up, lift up, open up, partner up, raise up, rise up
  • ask the question
  • assemble together, attach together, blend together, collaborate together, combine together, confer together, connect together, cooperate together, fuse together, gather together, join together, integrate together, meet together, merge together, mingle together, mix together, pool together, share together, splice together
  • authenticate successfully
  • classify into groups
  • choose as one of his picks, consciously choose
  • circle around, circulate around
  • communicate with each other, compete with each other, equal to each other, integrate with each other, interact with each other, interdependent on each other, meet with each other, separate apart from each other
  • commute back and forth, vacillate back and forth
  • completely annihilate, completely destroy, completely eliminate, completely engulf, completely eradicate, completely fill, completely surround, completely alike, completely finished, absolutely full, totally opposite, eliminate altogether
  • continue with the ongoing analysis
  • could possibly, can’t possibly
  • depreciate in value
  • descend down, dwindle down, fall down, kneel down, write down, pouring down rain
  • deviate away from
  • did before, did earlier, had done previously
  • disappear from sight
  • enter in, penetrate into, input into, output out of
  • estimate at roughly
  • extradite back, refer back, reflect back, regress back, reply back, retreat back, return back, revert back
  • first began, first conceived
  • fly through the air
  • follow after
  • frequented on a regular basis
  • grow in size
  • indict on a charge
  • introduce a new, introduce for the first time
  • invent something new
  • kills bugs dead
  • lag behind
  • learn something you didn’t know
  • look ahead to the future, look back to the past
  • looming in the near future
  • maintain constantly
  • originally created
  • overexaggerate
  • pause for a moment
  • perceive a noticeable impact
  • picture in my head
  • plan ahead, proceed ahead
  • postpone until later
  • preboard, predefine, preestablish, preheat, prerecord, pretest
  • protest against
  • reelect for another term
  • recur again, repeat again, rethink again
  • scrutinize in detail
  • self-analyze yourself, self-diagnose themselves
  • set clear expectations
  • share in common
  • skip over
  • slip quietly
  • spell out in detail
  • still continues, still persists, still remains
  • surround on all sides
  • tinker around
  • warn in advance, plan in advance, preview in advance, reserve in advance
  • will do later
  • win a victory
  • wince in pain
  • winnow down

Odds and Ends

  • 6 a.m. in the morning, 10 p.m. in the evening, twelve noon, twelve midnight
  • all of the apples, off of the couch, outside of the circle
  • and etc.
  • any and all
  • ATM machine, GOP party, GRE exam, HIV virus, ISBN number, LCD display, PIN number, RAM memory, UPC code—and my favorite: Please RSVP
  • at a time when, during the course of, earlier time, later time, evolve over time, point in time, period of time, time period, present time, since the time when, first of all, never before, now pending
  • first and foremost
  • for some unknown reason
  • from whence
  • having said that, that being said
  • modern citizens of today
  • many theories abound
  • number #5
  • of which you are one of
  • outside in the yard
  • previously noted above
  • reason why, reason is because, the cause was due to
  • single greatest
  • soon in the near future
  • test score on the exam
  • throughout the entire
  • whether or not

Conclusion

Did you read the whole list? I know, I could have stopped after a few representative examples … I mean, after a few examples. But think of the smiles you’d have missed. Besides, you’ve just sharpened your eye. The more you spot redundancies, the more you spot redundancies. And that’s no redundancy. But then, that goes without saying.

This post first appeared October 16, 2013, in my TechWhirl column, “Word Wise.”

6 thoughts on “The Annals of Redundancy Annals

  1. Thanks, Marcia. As I read through this — I mean, as I read this — I thought to myself — no, I just thought — “This is really awesome!” Um, I mean, awesome. Period.

    • Larry, Thanks for the smile. How could any other line of work could touch the rewards of writing? Well, other than money…

  2. I’ve got to admit-I read this whole entire post with a smile stretched across my face from one side to the other of my grinning face.

    But really, in all seriousness, for real

    I did.

    • David, Your note brings me a smile. I keep returning to this post myself, adding to it regularly as I encounter redundant phrases. I sense a kindred spirit in you. In fact, I just read your blog post “On Editing – Death to Weak Verbs” and commented there. I don’t know if the comment took (it disappeared when I clicked the button), but I trust that it will find its way.

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