Avoiding Redundancy

The mistake of repeating ideas in our writing is easy to make. Repeating unnecessarily is called being redundant or redundancy. Most of the time, this happens when we are not paying enough attention as we write, but some students will try to “write more” by adding unnecessary words and becoming redundant.

Here are some examples:

Repeating subjects, verbs, and basic information is usually easy to notice:

My friend, who is my good friend, is nice to me.

(You cannot describe the friend as being a friend—that’s redundant.)

 The horses ran in circles as they ran.

(The verb, the action of running, has been repeated unnecessarily.)

The earthquake destroyed the city, injured people, and ruined buildings.

(If the quake destroyed a city, then that means it ruined buildings, so that last part of the list is redundant and should be changed.)

Repeating descriptive elements are often harder to notice:

She rushed quickly down the hall to her class.

(Here, the problem is the adverb, quickly, because the verb rushed already means to move fast, so the adverb is redundant.)

The hot, boiling water made steam.

(Now the adjective is the problem—if water is boiling, it is hot, so there is no need to include the adjective hot.)

More is not always better. Generally, we want to say as much as we can with as few words as we can. Remember, writing is a process, so go ahead and write all your ideas in a first draft and know you will write another draft and proofread later. Redundancy is easily fixed, but we must recognize those places in our writing first. If you continue to have problems, you may visit the Department of Redundancy Department. Not really—that’s an old joke!

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