Repeating Yourself

Do repetitive phrases waste the reader’s time? Here are some common phrases that are  redundant.

  • advance planning: planning must always be done in advance
  • ask the question: is there ever anything else that can be asked but a question?
  • assemble together: a group cannot assemble any other way but together
  • cash money: cash is money
  • combined together: just like assemble together, there is no way to combine apart
  • each and every: as adjectives, these words mean the same thing
  • end result: results only happen at the end
  • fewer in number: fewer only refers to numbers
  • large in size: large denotes size, you don’t need to say “size”
  • mix together: like combine and assemble, things can only be mixed together
  • month of November: everyone knows November is a month
  • red in color: can red be anything other than a color?
  • square in shape: square is its shape
  • sum total: if you have a sum, you have a total

Many of these phrases, however, are used in every day speech. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a cooking show where the host hasn’t used the expression “mix together” or “combine together.” What does that mean for a writer?  Expressions like these are grammatically repetitive, yet common in usage. So for example, if you are writing dialogue between two average people, it might be perfectly acceptable to use phrases like these. Why? Because that’s how people talk. On the other hand, if you are writing narrative, you probably want to avoid them. Reading your work out loud will expose some of the clumsy phrases and awkward grammar that might have crept into your writing. Happy editing my friends!

30 thoughts on “Repeating Yourself

  1. Right you are Meg. In some cases , for example “cash money” is used to designate a region as that is a regional expression so I think in story telling it is appropriate. Informative and thoughtful text! Enjoyed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good info. I always think about lie/lay because people say lay all the time even though it’s not correct. So I use it in dialog because it’s common. Kinda like these phrases. 🙂

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      1. I don’t think it’s something I would ever notice, you know? But once I was aware of it, I felt like I had to do it properly. It’s annoying, lol.

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  3. Now I have to go through my stories with a fine tooth comb to see how many times I have broken these rules. Sigh. I try to avoid tautologies but you give a big list. Each and every has a poetic quality about that I think makes up for its redundancy.

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      1. No you are right. when i notice phrases like the dark night (it tends to be dark at night, that what makes it night) or cold ice (if the water was toasty it wouldn’t be ice) it makes me very spiky. However your list of tautologies were extensive and I am almost certain I have broken the rules.

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      2. There are times we write cliches into our work without realizing it, too. I can’t tell you how valuable I find reading aloud. It’s how I do all my editing. That’s also how you discover that you’ve used the same words too close together. You don’t read it as awkward, but it shows itself when spoken out loud.

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      3. Not completely. I have broken the habit of overusing ‘really’ and ‘very’ by reading aloud. Then I replace the words modified by ‘very’ with stronger adjectives. You already have an excellent and varied vocabulary – it makes editing your work ‘very’ enjoyable, Cake!

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