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Redundant word usage is a problem for your memoir.

Redundant word usage

Redundant word usage is rampant!

As a writer, I am chagrined when words get misused and one particular miscreant is redundant word usage.

Here are examples:

1. “As I re-listened to these interviews for a second time…”

2. “That just my personal opinion!”

3. “Repeat again…”

4. “As a child I was raised by parents who…”

5. “a personal friend”

These are phrases and sentences that I read or heard today (in the space of one hour!) that lead me to want to send the writer/speaker a note to suggest more economy in speech and more trust in the potency of words to say what they mean. (Instead, dear reader, I wrote you a blog post!) These are obviously redundant word usages and any writer who would take a moment to ask what particular words mean would have the tools to correct these problems. Really easy to do. So…

Here’s a useful exercise:

Ask yourself what a word or phrase you have written means and whether you are letting the meaning be—or are you diffident and feel the need to reinforce a word or phrase and so create an illiteracy?

The problems with the examples above

1. “Re-listen” requires doing the listening again so the use of the word “again” is redundant. It would be correct however to say “As I relistened for the second time.” This means that you are now listening on the third round.

2. Try writing something like “I think the situation is hopeless” and then add “That’s your opinion.” Wouldn’t make sense, right? The opinion is obviously associated with “I”. Whenever you use the pronoun “I”, you are necessarily taking responsibility for a statement. The use of “personal opinion” is redundant word usage as the opinion stated is yours since the subject of the sentence is “I”.

3. “Repeat again…” Is this the second or third time the repetition has occurred? If it’s only the second time, “repeat” used without “again” is sufficient.

4. “As a child, I was raised by parents who…” Is this so that we do not confuse with the statement “As a forty-year-old, I was raised by parents who…”?

5. “A personal friend” seems to derive from the fear of offending a business colleague or acquaintance. We do not want to say s/he is not a friend. Rather than say “He’s not a friend. He’s an acquaintance from work or colleague” we have devised the phrase “business friend.” Therefore the need for “personal friend” to distinguish a person with whom we have a real connection from people we merely work with. Better usage would have us say “friend” and “colleague” or “fellow worker,” etc.

You can do it!

None of this discriminating work of letting words have their say is hard. It just requires an attitude of asking what words mean and then ascertaining whether or not the words need reinforcement. Mostly, we can let words be. They do not need reinforcement. And now for…

Your favorite—or “unfavorite”—redundant word usage? Please share them below.

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