Practitioners in every endeavor or field have tools that are specific to accomplishing their work. These people use tools with discrimination and, one hopes, effectiveness. A carpenter uses a ball peen hammer and a claw hammer and a club hammer. Each is different and each has a different use. While a carpenter might on occasion, perhaps to save the time to fetch a tool for a very small task, use one of those hammers in an inappropriate way, he will be embarrassed doing so and, if caught, he will make some comment to demonstrate he knows the difference.
As writers, words are our most-used tools. (Other important tools include punctuation, grammar, the visual aspect of a text layout.) Each of our tools, too, ought to be respected for their best use.
A prime way people abuse words is through word redundancies.
Here are some examples of word redundancies.
To start off with a clearly ridiculous word redundancy I will cite: dead corpse and round circle. These examples seem clear enough, I hope!
One way to describe word redundancy is to label it as being overprecise in our fumbling attempts to find exact meaning. By this, I mean that a writer will not accept the ability of a word to carry its literal meaning. In his or her doubt, the writer needs to reinforce what does not need to be reinforced.
Here are some more examples of these word redundancies: first started; return back;top, or first, priority. Each of these phrases is weighted with the problem of word redundancies.
1. You can’t have anything but a “first start” otherwise you would have continuation—first is redundant.
2. Return and back are the same concept.
3. If something is not a priority, it is of secondary importance. Have you ever heard anyone say “unimportant priority”? So why should people say “top priority”? (The issue here is that most people believe that the word priority means something like an important list. It does not. Priority means occupying the first place. Prior in Latin means first in a list. So something either has priority or it does not. All the while, it can remain extremely important—just not the priority.)
4. The problem with first introduced is that introduce has the meaning first build right into it. (Once you are introduced, you can’t be introduced again—but, you can be reminded who someone or something is, perhaps, but not introduced.)
5. In fact, the use of first is very often redundant. When you write: “When I first heard of X, I was pleased at what I learned, you are adding nothing to meaning. When I heard means the same as when I first heard. Otherwise, you would write When I was reminded of.
6. Other instances of word redundancies are join (combine, unite, etc) together, might (or could) possibly and, of course, I personally.
As writers we need to look at the words and the word phrases we use and respect the power of their meaning—as is. Scrutinize your writing for word redundancies. I suggest that you make a list. Here’s a site for you to get more info on word redundancies.
What are some of your “favorite” redundancies—the ones that get you whining!
Working with an editor early on in the writing process can sensitize you to many writing problems before you waste time.
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