Is there fat you can trim from your writing? Is it time to put your writing on a diet?
Deleting redundant phrases makes your writing more professional.
I wish I could say that one of the most dramatic signs of amateurish writing is using redundant phrases. Unfortunately, experienced writers use them, too—but that doesn’t mean it’s okay.
A reader may not be able to spot a redundancy like “future plans” or “past history.” He or she will, however, recognize that something seems not quite right. Too many “not quite right” feelings can lead to boredom or confusion that will result in the reader putting your writing down.
In seeking to eliminate these phrases, you, too, can be guided by the “not quite right” feeling. Examine the words that make you react.
Here are some frequently-used examples. I’ve grouped some together because they share common elements.
Some of these are: absolutely certain, absolute certainty, absolutely essential, absolutely wrong. Your safest bet is to avoid the word “absolute” in combination with other words.
These abound in writing filled with unneeded phrases. “Fuse together,” “join together,” “merge together,” and “unite together” contain the tell-tale word “together.”
Togetherness is suggested by the words that precede it in the above examples. However, an unaccompanied “together” is often appropriate, as in, “We decided to go together instead of separately.” This isn’t redundant.
“Integrate with each other” and “interdependent upon each other” lack the “together” word, but since “integrate” and “interdependent” imply a joining, the last parts of the phrases aren’t needed.
These are very popular.
Some examples: orbit around, surrounded on all sides, rise up or raise up, lift up, sink down, kneel down, skirt around.
In each of these cases, the directional signals need to be turned off. Take the example of surrounded on all sides. You couldn’t be surrounded on one side or even two.
Cut Random Redundancies to Put Your Writing on a Diet
“Low ebb.” There are no high ebbs.
“Overexaggerate.” Exaggeration refers to excess. It’s already too much (just like “overexggerate” is). So also look out for “overexcess.”
“Passing fad.” A fad by nature is something that passes.
“Past history.” History always takes place in the past.
“All-time record” or “new record.” A record represents an achievement that hasn’t previously been reached. It is for all time and it’s new until the next record.
“Sudden impulse.” The idea of an impulse is that it occurs suddenly.
“Unexpected surprise.” This phrase belongs in the neighborhood of “sudden impulse.” If it’s unexpected, it’s a surprise.
“Erupt violently.” Is there another way?
“Undergraduate student.” An undergraduate is by definition a student. In contrast, though, it clarifies someone’s status to call him or her a graduate student, as “graduate” can be a verb, noun, or adjective.
“Added bonus.” A bonus is something added.
“Future plans.” Plans are always made for the future.
The best way to spot redundancies is to take a hard look at your writing – after it has a chance to settle and you have a fresh perspective. Putting your writing on a diet will increase its professionalism and keep your reader engaged.
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Pat Iyer is an editor, author, book coach and ghostwriter who helps individuals create books that encourages their expertise to shine and advances their businesses. She has written or edited 48 of her own books.