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Tips on How to Eliminate Redundant Expressions

A Tip Sheet on Cutting the Clutter


As noted in the article 200 Common Redundancies, one way to streamline your writing is to eliminate repetitious expressions. Redundancies (also called pleonasms and deadwood) can bore your readers and distract from the words that matter.

As you practice cutting the clutter in your prose, consider these 30 examples of common redundancies (in bold), with brief explanations and tips on how to avoid them.

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  1. The problem was defused before it became an acute crisis.
    Crisis means "a crucial or decisive point or situation" or "a traumatic change."
    Tip: Don't be cute: cut acute.

  2. The Card Act requires advance warning of changes in interest rates and card fees.
    If a warning isn't given in advance of an event, by definition it's not a warning.
    Tip: Back off from advance.

  3. All throughout the holiday weekend, the women talked about the election and the issues it raised.
    Throughout means "all through" or "during every part of."
    Tip: You don't need all at all.

  4. When adults die unexpectedly, their deaths are usually followed by an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
    Autopsy means "examination of a cadaver to determine the cause of death."
    Tip: Let the cause of death rest in peace.

  5. Laser light focused on tiny plastic spheres caused them to move toward each other and bond together.
    The verb bond means "to join securely." Things can't bond apart.
    Tip: Sever together.

  6. Why do brides traditionally carry a bouquet of flowers when they are getting married?
    Bouquet means "a small cluster or arrangement of flowers."
    Tip: Toss the flowers.

  7. I used to commute back and forth between Vienna, where I lived, and Munich, where my husband lived.
    Back and forth means "moving from one place to another and back again."
    Tip: Enough with the back and forth.

  8. Investment in arts and culture produces other desirable benefits.
    By definition, you can't have an undesirable benefit ("something that promotes or enhances well-being").
    Tip: Dump desirable.

  9. BP contracted for $50 million worth of TV advertising to manage their image during the course of the disaster.
    Because during means "throughout the course or duration of," this phrase is verbose.
    Tip: Strike the course of--of course.

  10. Bond got closer to finding the man responsible for the betrayal of Vesper--the woman he loved and lost by a fatal murder.
    Fatal means "causing death," and murder means "the unlawful killing of one human by another."
    Tip: Kill fatal.

  11. As a former veteran of the armed forces, I have high regard for those who served honorably in the military.
    By definition, a veteran is a person who has served in the armed forces.
    Tip: Discharge former and armed forces.

  12. How do you clean the front headlight lens on a 2002 Honda Accord?
    If a car's headlight (a light mounted on the front of a vehicle) isn't up front, it's probably not worth cleaning.
    Tip: Remove front.

  13. Following his defeat in the leadership race, the shadow foreign secretary is keeping the party guessing about his future plans.
    Only a time traveler would bother making plans for the past.
    Tip: Disregard the future.

  14. My grateful thanks to all who have worked so hard to bring this part of our undertaking to a satisfactory conclusion.
    Thanks, but no thanks: grateful means thankful.
    Tip: Please get rid of grateful.

  15. The resident has no legal right to occupy his or her assigned room or any other residence hall room during the interim period of time between academic terms.
    You have to go to college to come up with a double redundancy like this one.
    Tip: Expel interim and of time.

  16. Our paper on private sector funding is evidence of joint collaboration between two departments that in the past haven't always got on.
    As used here, collaboration means a joint effort.
    Tip: Snuff out the joint.

  17. Yes, you can be a part of a live studio audience on a real Hollywood TV set at one of the major TV studios!
    Unless, of course, you'd prefer to sit over there with the dead people.
    Tip: Kill live.

  18. We bring people together from all backgrounds to learn and develop mutual respect for each other.
    Mutual means directed and received by each toward the other.
    Tip: Forgo for each other.

  19. One of our goals with Google TV is to finally open up the living room and enable new innovation from content creators.
    An innovation is something newly introduced.
    Tip: Out with the new.

  20. This government is fighting a party of "no" that is only interested in nostalgia for the past.
    In contrast to "future plans," nostalgia means a longing for something past.
    Tip: Forget of the past.

  21. Some of the potential benefits of the information revolution may have been over exaggerated.
    To exaggerate means to overstate, so over exaggerate is the equivalent of over overstate.
    Tip: Omit over.

  22. To borrow an overused cliché, I am fast approaching the belief that what is not broken should not be fixed.
    Question for philosophy majors: if a cliché is underused, is it still a cliché?
    Tip: Don't use overused.

  23. Two new books argue that the hottest idea in physics is just a passing fad.
    By definition, a fad is passing: a fashion taken up with enthusiasm for a brief period of time.
    Tip: Take a pass on passing.

  24. The woman lived on past memories, robbing herself of any chance of happiness.
    All memories depend on the past.
    Tip: Leave the past behind.

  25. It's my personal opinion that public relations is not the best place to spend scarce marketing dollars.
    The possessive determiner my is personal enough for any opinion.
    Tip: Don't get personal.

  26. She wasn't prepared to spend precious political capital on battles that could be postponed until later.
    To postpone means to delay until a future time--that is, until later.
    Tip: If you can't identify a more specific time (say, "later in the year" or "later in the session"), cut until later.

  27. The reason I write is because I find comfort in words.
    The word reason implies cause; because implies reason.
    Tip: Replace because with that, or drop "The reason . . . is."

  28. Whenever the three of us got together, we reverted back to our old habits.
    To revert means to go back to a former state, practice, or condition.
    Tip: Bounce back.

  29. If you've never stayed at a Manor Inn before, you're in for an unexpected surprise.
    A surprise may be pleasant or unpleasant, but it's always unexpected.
    Tip: Toss out unexpected.

  30. The viper's poisonous venom may destroy muscle and red blood cells.
    Venom means poison or a poisonous secretion.
    Tip: Extract poisonous.

For practice in applying these tips, see our Exercise in Eliminating Deadwood.

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