Roger That: A few words on writing

July 12, 2013

Roger Shirley is a former editor of the Nashville Business Journal and longtime editorial director here at MP&F. He reads just about everything we write. And we write a lot. This is Roger’s column about writing.

RS Redundancy

From the Department of Redundancies Department

My first MP&F blog post extolled the virtues of concise writing (When you write, keep it tight, February 4, 2010). One of the bullet points was about eliminating redundancies. The other day I stumbled upon  an email  I sent to the staff on the topic back in ’07, inspired by a list I’d seen. It still holds up, so here is the email:

Many of you have heard me say that an effective way to develop tight writing skills is to go through your copy and eliminate unnecessary words. If you can edit a 25-word sentence down to 18 words and not lose any meaning or effect, the shorter sentence will be better. Words such as “currently” can be eliminated about 95 percent of the time. In some cases, not only are words unnecessary, they create redundancies. I remember an old city editor almost having a stroke when a reporter turned in a story about an “armed gunman.”

Here are a few examples of common redundancies. Eliminate the word or phrase in parentheses:

(advance) reservations

(advance) warning

(added) bonus

ATM (machine)

(basic) fundamentals

(brief) summary

bouquet (of flowers)

(close) proximity

(completely, entirely) eliminate

depreciate (in value)

(desirable) benefits

during (the course of)

each (and every)

evolve (over time)

(exact) replica

(final) conclusion

fly (through the air)

(free) gift

(frozen) ice

(future) plans

grow (in size)

introduced (a new)

(live) studio audience

look back (in retrospect)

look (ahead) to the future

(new) construction

(now) pending

(originally) created

(overused) cliché

(past) history

previously listed (above)

(still) remains

surrounded (on all sides)

(three-way) love triangle

(total) destruction

(two equal) halves

(underground) subway

(unexpected) surprise

(unintentional) mistake

vacillating (back and forth)

(very) unique

whether (or not)

(white) snow

write (down)


3 Responses to “Roger That: A few words on writing”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Interesting read. Redundant qualifiers such as “make a reservation (in advance)” often are intended as rhetorical softeners or as vernacular custom. “Write your name” could come off as slightly harsh compared with “Write down your name”. However, “Write your name in the space provided” is more specific than and just as polite as the other examples.

  2. An interesting read indeed. Even more key when we are limited to few characters.

  3. Excellent list! Sometimes, our brains don’t recognize redundancy. This is such a great reminder to watch wording and proof for such mistakes. Wait, that wasn’t redundant, was it?

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