How to Avoid Redundancy in Your Writing

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  • 0:03 Redundancy Trouble
  • 0:55 Causes of Redundancy
  • 2:08 Avoiding Redundancy
  • 3:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Does your writing redundantly say the same thing twice? Is it full of unnecessary and inessential repetition of things you've already said before? Learn how to fix it here!

Redundancy Trouble

Have you ever gotten a free gift? Probably you have. But here's a better question: have you ever gotten a gift that wasn't free? Has anyone ever asked you to haul out your wallet around the Christmas tree or pony up before you open your birthday presents? No. If it's not free, it isn't a gift at all!

The idea of being free is included in the word 'gift.' So there's no reason to specify a 'free gift' - or, for that matter, a 'foreign immigrant,' an 'unknown stranger,' or an appointment at '9 A.M. in the morning.' All these phrases are redundant: they say the same thing twice.

Redundancy makes your writing less effective because it wastes the reader's time and attention rereading information that you've already provided. In this lesson, you'll learn why you might fall into the redundancy trap and how to get out of it.

Causes of Redundancy

Before learning how to avoid redundancy, let's look at the reasons why it sneaks into your writing in the first place:

  • You write without paying attention. Redundancy is very common in everyday language. Just for example, take the phrase 'last and final.' 'Last' and 'final' mean exactly the same thing, so this is completely redundant, but you hear it all the time. If you just start writing without paying attention, you're likely to use redundant phrases like this without noticing them just because that's what you're used to hearing.

  • You're trying to sound official. Many people use redundant phrases in their formal writing because they think that using a lot of words makes them sound more important. For example, when they're writing an email to their boss, they'll say something like 'at the present moment in time' instead of just using 'now.'

  • You're trying to sound emphatic. If you're really driving home a point, redundant expressions can seem like a good way to add weight or power to your sentences. Just think of advertising: how many 'added bonuses' have you seen in your life?

  • You're trying to fill a word count. What do you do when you have to turn in 1,000 words but you're done writing at 800? Add fluff! Don't lie; you know you've done it, too.

Avoiding Redundancy

Now you know why redundant phrases might be sneaking up on you. But regardless of the reason why they're there, it's time to learn how to avoid them.

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