Redundancy

rogersgeorge on June 4th, 2017

Redundant text is a bane of technical writing. It’s when you add words that repeat what you just said. I wrote about this clear back in 2010 here and here. Use the Search…  box near the upper right corner of the site to find several more posts on the subject. That’s how bad redundancy is! Anyway, I just ran into an Adult Children comic that uses some obvious examples to give you the idea.

Those were pretty obvious, but it’s easy to be redundant accidentally. For example, don’t say “do it over again.” Don’t say “return back.” Be alert and you’ll find lots more.

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A Subtle Redundancy

rogersgeorge on July 13th, 2016

Redundancy is when you unnecessarily repeat yourself. There’s a place for redundancy when it comes to hardware. We call it “carrying a spare.” The more critical the issue, the more redundancy. That’s great for the space program, the military, and aviation, not to mention lots of other places. But in language, particularly in expository writing, it’s better to be concise than redundant. Here’s a redundancy I almost missed; it serves to show shows how easy it can be to use unnecessary words. (The bold is my way of pointing it out.)

Again, there’s good news. Active debris removal is technically challenging, but potential solutions exist. Things like “laser brooms,” electrodynamic tethers, nanosatellites, solar sails, space grapples, and tugs are being considered (more on these to come). Some of these technologies even exist as more than prototypes, although they’re sequestered away under military control.

“Away” is redundant. You get the same meaning if you take the word out.

That sentence is from an Ars Technica article by Mark Pontin, dated May 27 2014

A Plumber after my own Heart

rogersgeorge on April 29th, 2016

Redundancy is a bugbear in expository writing. Try not to do it.

Okay, a bugbear is an imaginary monster described by adults to frighten children. Let’s say I’m using the word to help you picture how normally bad it is to repeat concepts unnecessarily. (When you write a word and then define it, I suppose you could call that being redundant, but it’s not bad, especially if your reader needs the definition.)

Related to redundancy are words that are unnecessary even if they don’t exactly repeat something.

Is the plumber here correcting a redundancy or a merely unnecessary word?

I suppose if the problem was that he burned himself if he touched it, you could say it’s a hot water heater…

Okay! The next day Steve Kelley and Jeff Parker’s Dustin comic had a follow-up strip. It also is about unnecessary words. See if you can figure out the missing word. (Actually, I liked the ‘technicality’ quip better.)

Dustin - 04/21/2016

(sigh) We grammar curmudgeons are so persecuted…

The Value of an Editor

rogersgeorge on March 29th, 2016

Even educated people make mistakes. If you want to reduce the number of writing mistakes that you make, I suggest you have another pair of eyes look at what you write, especially if that person has expertise that you don’t. It might help you not look like a doofus. Here’s a quote in Ars Technica of from evolutionary biologist Carles Laleuza-Fox, who  told The New York Times’ Carl Zimmer

This is yet another genetic nail in the coffin of our over-simplistic models of human evolution.

I can picture both the NYT people and the Ars Technica folks grimacing at the redundant phrase “over-simplistic.”  Simplistic already means oversimplified. You shouldn’t use the word “over” twice.

I admire the journalistic integrity of both organizations in not changing the quote.

Redundancy

rogersgeorge on March 13th, 2016

An important part of good expository writing is to be concise. That means no more words than necessary. The rule of thumb is, “If you can remove the word without changing the meaning, remove it.” I wrote about this before, but I’ve since I’ve been using comics lately to illustrate some points, here’s one , Tina’s Groove, about redundancy:

tina's groove

Sigh. The comic is even an example of itself. It’s there twice. You don’t need me to explain any of the redundancies, do you?