Redundant Expressions and How to Avoid Them

Redundant Expressions and How to Avoid Them

Do you ever get the feeling you’re repeating yourself? It’s certainly a common problem in writing, especially when it comes to redundant expressions. But what are redundancies? Why are they a problem? And how can you avoid them in your written work? Let us explain.

What Are Redundant Expressions?

Redundant expressions are phrases made up of two or more words that repeat the same idea. A good example is “twelve midnight,” since “midnight” is always at 12am. We can therefore drop “twelve” without losing any meaning. Other redundant expressions include:

  • Added bonus
  • Cease and desist
  • Consensus of opinion
  • Each and every
  • End result
  • Free gift
  • New innovations
  • Null and void
  • Past history
  • Plan ahead
  • Regular routine
  • Rough estimation
  • Sum total
  • Unexpected surprise
 Some of these redundancies can be used for emphasis. Saying “null and void,” for example, sounds stronger than “null” or “void” alone. Usually, though, redundant expressions are just wordiness. And since wordy writing is harder to read, you will want to avoid redundancies in your written work.

How to Avoid Redundant Expressions

What, then, should one do upon spotting a redundant expression? The simplest answer is to remove the unnecessary word or words. Depending on the redundant expression used, you may even have a choice of which term to keep. “Cease” and “desist,” for example, are interchangeable:

Will you cease and desist that infernal racket! Redundant

Will you cease that infernal racket!

Will you desist that infernal racket!

But most of the time you will need to be careful about which term you remove. The key is that most redundancies contain a modifying term (i.e., an adjective or an adverb). For instance:

We should plan ahead for Christmas. – Redundant

Here, we see the verb “plan” being modified with the adverb “ahead.” But since planning involves thinking ahead by definition, the word “ahead” is redundant. By comparison, if we cut “plan,” we would end up with an adverb without a verb to modify, which is ungrammatical:

We should ahead for Christmas.

We should plan for Christmas.

In cases like this, then, you should always remove the modifying term, not the term being modified.

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