Monday, May 6, 2013

Avoid Redundant Phrases

Thomas Jefferson: "The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do."

A redundant expression (pleonasm) is a group of words, usually a pair, in which at least one word is superfluous. Some expressions are used colloquially while others are down right silly no matter where they are uttered. Many have come into standard use through repetition or as part of a vocation. Null and void, cease and desist, honest truth, terms and conditions, and sworn affidavit are pleonasms in the legal field. 

Some pleonasms have become used often as to become “correct”: joined together (in holy matrimony), safe haven, PIN number (Personal Identification Number number), ATM machine (Automated Teller Machine machine), heat up and mental telepathy. 

Some humorous expressions are: hot water heater (shouldn’t it heat up cold water?), bare naked (if you are naked, you are bare), armed gunman (versus a gunman without arms; how does he hold his gun then?), temporary loan (all loans are temporary otherwise is it not a gift?), true fact (are there false facts?), end result (is there a beginning result?), foreign imports (versus domestic imports?), tuna fish (are tuna anything but fish?), and my favorite, free gifts. Writing using redundant expressions is not better writing, only longer writing.

Here are some redundant expressions to be avoided, and forever, and ever never used.

month of June/ July                          clearly evident                     first began
postpone until later                           no way, shape or form        balsa wood
evolve over time                               strangled to death                new beginning
final outcome                                    tiny bit                                advance warning
introduced a new                              refer back to                        usual habit  
consensus of opinion                        brief moment                       eliminate altogether
final conclusion                                fellow teammates                 hopeful optimism
definitely decided                             evil fiend                              poisonous venom  
thoughtful deliberations                   utter annihilation                   sum total          
no trespassing allowed                     past records                          old proverb          
my personal opinion                        past experience                    closed fist    
added bonus                                     current trend                       future plans
different varieties                              already exists                      kneel down
permeate throughout                         reason why                         rise up
close proximity/scrutiny                   proceed ahead                     general public
visible to the eye                              usual habit                           hurry up
reason is because                              proposed plan                     frozen ice
disregard altogether                          wept tears                            filled to capacity
new recruit                                        exactly identical                  but nevertheless
evolve over time                               absolutely necessary            passing fad
please RSVP                                     ask the question                  pre-recorded
illustrated drawing                             revert back                          reason why
different kinds                                   exact identity                       cheap price
write down                                        absolute given                     safe sanctuary
permeate throughout                          proposed plan                     honest truth
brief moment                                     personally I                         lag behind
re-elect for another term                   complete monopoly             head up 
spell out in detail                              unexpected emergency        still persists                                                                                                                       

“How often have you heard a friend say something like this: ‘It was an unexpected surprise when a pair of twin babies was born at 12 midnight’? What is a surprise if not unexpected? What are twins if not a pair? Who can be born but a baby? When is midnight if not at 12? The expressions we use are full of redundancies. Your friend could just as well have said: ‘It was a surprise when twins were born at midnight’ with far less repetition.” (           

This site list many redundant phrases.

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