Redundancy is a no-no

rogersgeorge on February 17th, 2010

Redundancy is when you say (write) something twice that needs to be said only once.

The test for redundancy is to remove one of the candidates. Does the meaning change? If no, then you have a redundancy. Redundancies are easy to miss because you have to be paying attention to what you are saying to catch them. Many redundancies are idiomatic, and since we’re used to them, we tend to slide over them without close attention.

Here’s an easy one: “Let’s do it over again.” —You don’t need both “over” and “again.” Remove either word and you have not only the same meaning, but a cleaner, tighter (technical terms for “more concise”) sentence.

Here’s a hard one. I found it in a construction specification, a very technical document that needs to be as concise as possible so the reader can get to the content with the least effort.

“…uses a ship-lap joint system that allows for expansion and contraction to occur.”

I’ll spell out the redundancy below, so look at this sentence yourself first, to see if you can discern the redundancy.

Okay, class, time’s up.

Congratulations if you figured out that you can leave out either the “for” or the “to occur.” Go back and read the sentence with each choice left out. See?

Here’s why you have a redundancy. Read slowly—the explanation is a bit technical, but within the realm of basic grammar.

  • “Expansion and contraction” stand comfortably as the object of the preposition “for.”
  • The phrase “to occur”  is an infinitive, which can take a subject, as it does in this sentence. Its subject is  “expansion and contraction.”

So this sentence uses “expansion and contraction” as two things at once. Big no-no. (oops.)

(Delete the infinitive. “To occur” a way of saying “to be.” As a general rule, any time you leave out any form of “to be” from your writing, you produce better writing.)

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