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Redundancy: Pleonasm Or Tautology (When Good Writing Turns Bad)

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Redundancy: Pleonasm Or Tautology (When Good Writing Turns Bad)

I have engaged in a number of proofreads and edits in the recent weeks and apart from clichés, passive voice, typos and grammatical issues such as pronoun, comma and apostrophe, semi colon/colon misuse, the most common correction is the not-so-known redundancy. How do I know redundancy is not-so-known? Because the author says so. With a hint of surprise, maybe disappointment, they say, “Really? Never heard of it.”

What Is Redundancy?

Redundancy (in writing terminology) is the adding of words or phrases that add nothing to the overall text meaning because their gist has already been expressed. A a redundancy exhibits through:

Pleonasm (Greek word that means excess) using more words than necessary and one or more words are redundant because the meaning is implicit. For example, I saw with my own eyes.

 Tautology (Greek word tauto (the same) and logos (a word or an idea) a repetition of the same idea in different words, for exmaple, repeat again.

Acronymic doublings, for example, ATM machine.


 Tautology Examples:

  • Black darkness
  • Descend down
  • Return back
  • Burning fire
  • Exact replica
  • Lagging behind
  • Close proximity
  • Repeat again
  • Future plans
  • Continued on
  • Again and again 
  • Close proximity
  • True fact
  • Ask a question
  • First and foremost
  • Collaborate together
  • Added bonus
  • At the present time
  • Still persist
  • Difficult dilemma
  • End result
  • Definite decision
  • False pretence
  • Final outcome
  • Enter in
  • Possibly might
  • Revert back
  • Free gift
  • Unexpected surprise
  • Unintended mistake
  • Mix together
  • Regular routine
  • Necessary requirement













 Pleonasm Examples

  • I saw with my own eyes
  • Rain fell hard on the roof outside
  • He made me a tuna fish burrito

Acronymic Doublings Examples

  • ATM machine 
  • HIV virus 
  • PIN number 


Examples of Incorrect Use And Cleaned Up Versions

In the following clean versions, you will see the sentence tightened and the message conveyed strongly.  

Redundant: Rain fell hard on the roof outside.

Clean: Rain fell hard on the roof.

Redundant: They followed, lagging behind 20 steps.

Clean: They followed, lagging 20 steps.

Redundant: Despite feeling exhausted, she continued on.

Clean: Despite feeling exhausted, she continued.

Redundant: Dressing for church, Marge rummaged through a cupboard full of hats. There was Ronny’s, Jenny’s, Jasmine’s ... everyone’s hat. She rummaged on until she found her own/hat.

Clean: Dressing for church, Marge rummaged through a cupboard full of hats. There was Ronny’s, Jenny’s, Jasmine’s ... everyone’s hat.  She rummaged on until she found hers/hat.

Redundant: Another tantrum, the toddler threw his toy truck onto the floor.

Clean: Another tantrum, the toddler threw his toy truck on the floor.

Redundant: The driver was bad at reversing. After repeated attempts, they finally reversed back into the parking spot.

Clean: The driver was bad at reversing. After repeated attempts, they finally reversed into the parking spot.

Redundant: Jogging was her regular routine, so was chocolate, and coffee ... and....

Clean: Jogging was her routine, so was chocolate, and coffee ... and....

Redundant: He made me a tuna fish burrito.

Clean: He made me a tuna burrito.

Redundant: The file comes back in Word document and PDF format.

Clean: The file comes back in Word and PDF.

Redundant: What is your ATM machine PIN number?

Clean: What is your ATM PIN?

Redundant: It is a necessary requirement that we collaborate together.

Clean: It is a requirement that we collaborate.

Redundant: At this present time, I need to ask a question.

Clean: At this time, I need to ask.

So, Is It Ever Okay To Use Redundancies In Writing?

Absolutely! Whilst most redundancies should be rephrased, there are exceptions where repetition is effective and can trigger certain feelings from reader.

It is okay to let the occasional redundancy flow onto the page if it:

  • works in context
  • is used in dialogue
  • is deliberately constructed for emphasis

An excerpt from one of my books illustrates: "There was no birthday party for Sally, no rite of passage, no ‘let’s celebrate you becoming a teenager.' Nothing. Zip, Nada."

"I used to have a dream. Now it is dead. Caput, buried, slain, non-existent in my refractory heart destroyed by broken promises in the fray of life."

Of course, nothing, zip, nada and dead, caput, buried, slain, non-existent, share the same definition. They mean the same thing. But they have been deliberately constructed to delineate the character's feelings and to convey this with emphasis to the reader.

Finishing up

Repetition left unchecked weakens writing. It weighs the narrative down with superfluous and meaningless words. This conveys the message of an amateur writer lacking knowledge essential to the craft.

A strong piece of writing will be crisp and distinct. It will show the author's unique style, correctly through meaningful well-paced narrative.

Because good writing matters!


Deborah K Bates is a published author, mentor and professional writer. Deborah has won numerous awards for poetry, short stories and been praised by many luminaries in the arts field. She has assisted numerous people achieve their dream of writing through her services as a mentor/speaker/proof-reader/copy editor.



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