two drops of ink marilyn l davis

Stop Over-Explaining; I Get It!

By: Marilyn L. Davis

stop over explaining i get it two drops of ink marilyn l davisRedundancy 101

“Last month we had to sit through a presentation on eliminating redundancy, and it was a bunch of PowerPoint slides, plus a guy reading out what was on the slides, and then he gave us all hard copies. I don’t understand these things.” ― Max Berry, Company

Redundant writing is verbose or long-winded, bombastic, pompous, effusive, or wordy. Oh, and redundant words just repeat the point. Click To Tweet

Looking at that sentence, maybe there was concern that not all readers would know the meaning of ‘verbose’, so I wrote several other similar words – rather like a built-in Thesaurus. Some readers may appreciate not having to look the word up in a dictionary, but I’ll bet that more readers found it annoying to see a string of redundant words.

Granted, I am someone that values dictionaries, and if I find a word I don’t know, I look it up. However, I can also provide a link to questionable words and not belabor the point. Readers then have the option to click the link or continue with their reading. However, there may be times that redundancy is good writing, if it reduces the chances of the words being misread or misinterpreted.

Recognizing Redundancy

Simply put, redundant writing is using words or phrases that are unnecessary. As Strunk and White tell us in Elements of Style, “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

Unfortunately, there are countless ways that writers are redundant.

Wordy Verbs

Wordy verbs just get in the way of sound structure in your sentences.

I am aware of or have knowledge of addiction and recovery.

  • Better: I know about addiction and recovery.

Marilyn is going shopping at the mall and will take her grandkids, too.

  • Better: I’m taking the grandkids shopping.

Drinking every night might be an indication that there is an addiction.

  • Better: Nightly drinking suggests addiction.

Over-explaining the noun

Redundancy also shows up when the modifier, either an adjective or adverb, over explains the noun.

  • The current status quo: Status quo is about the current conditions
  • Early beginnings: Beginnings are always early in the process
  • Uphill climb: both references moving up.
  • Mental attitude: All attitudes are mental
  • Make reservations ahead of time: a reservation is made in the future.
  • Few in number: few always reference numbers
  • (Final) conclusions
  • Collaborate (together)
  • Write (down)
  • Summarize (briefly)

Tautology: Redundant Ideas and Expressions

two drops of ink marilyn l davisTaken from the Greek word ‘tauto’, meaning the same and ‘logos’ meaning a word or an idea, tautology refers to words or ideas repeated within the phrase, sentence or paragraph.

Some writers use this technique to give the impression of providing extra information.

Difference Between Tautology and Repetition

Tautology states the same thing twice in a redundant way:

  1. “If we do not succeed, we run the risk of failure.”—Dan Quayle
  2. “They are simply going to have to score more points than the other team to win the game.”—John Madden
  3. “You can observe a lot by watching.” —Yogi Berra
  4. “It’s no exaggeration to say the undecideds could go one way or another.”—George H.W. Bush

Repetition is sometimes used to add emphasis or present the idea from other perspectives. There are over fifteen types of repetition. Some examples that stay with us are:

Anadiplosis or gradatio: Repetition of the last word of one line as the first word of the next.

  • “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Epizeuxis or palilogia: Repetition of the same word or phrase without any words in between.

  • “Row, row, row your boat.”

Epistrophe: Repetition of a word at the end of every line or clause.

  • “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

two drops of ink marilyn l davis

Reducing Redundancy

Catching yourself as you’re writing is good, but remember what Murray Walker says, “With half the race gone, there is half the race still to go.”

Get rid of redundancy: write, revise, and edit, looking for words, phrases, or even paragraphs that belabor the point without adding either new information or ideas. Click To Tweet

Some writers live by the ‘word-count.’ I know when I was required to write ‘at least 1800 words’ to get an editor’s review, I added fluff. I’m sure you have, too.

However, when you start reducing your posts to concise writing, you respect the reader, engage them, and realize that some posts say it all in eight-hundred words.


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  1. I hear what you say Marilyn. Trouble is I love words. I read the dictionary to seek out new words. Bombastic and pompous serve a purpose but should be used rarely.

    One aspect I like about repitition is that it can give a rhythm to the words, as in “row, row, row your boat”. That rhythm can aid the reding of phrases, sentences, and paragraphs.

    • So, Peter, you’re saying you can be bombastic, verbose, and grandiloquent? Oh dear, I’ve repeated myself. She smiles.

      However, you are right about the row, row, row your boat. Some words repeat for emphasis.

    • Hi, Brigid. I appreciate you reading and commenting. Oh, and thank you. Or did I convey that already? She smiles.

    • Hi, Michelle. I’ve had to cut so much I was only left with the title. The life of a writer is never dull.

    • Hi, John. All of us have to determine if we are belaboring a point. In many ways, it’s disrespecting the reader; they get it without all the extra words. I think redundant writing is also off-putting from the standpoint that readers don’t have the time to wade through repetitive writing.

    • Hi, Mary Jo. Thank you for taking the time to comment. As I said to John, we all have to think about what to say and how much to say.

    • Hi, Wendy. When we know what needs changing, whether, in our lives or writing, we’re that much closer to change. Don’t be tempted. She smiles.

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