Redundant Words Can Kill Clarity of Writing

Published: 22nd September 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th September 2014 04:45 AM   |  A+A-

I came across this printed announcement pinned to a notice board in a college: This is to inform you that the meeting of all student representatives will start at 11 a.m. in the morning and end by 1 p.m. in the afternoon. All representatives are kindly requested to attend the meeting. Those who cannot attend should get prior permission from the Vice-Principal.

dr albert p’ rayan.JPGYou can notice four redundant expressions (needless repetition of words) in the notice: 1) 11 am in the morning, 2) 1 pm in the afternoon, 3) kindly requested and 4) prior permission. The phrases ‘in the morning’ and ‘in the afternoon’ in the first sentence are unnecessary as they repeat the meanings of the terms am and pm respectively. In the second sentence, the adverb ‘kindly’ is unnecessary as the word ‘request’ contains the meaning of ‘kindly’. In the third sentence, ‘prior’ is unnecessary as ‘permission’ refers to an act of getting authorisation to do something in advance. All these repetitive words/phrases should be eliminated to make it succinct.

By avoiding redundant expressions in writing, we can convey our message in a clearer and more effective way. Here are more examples:

1.  We have booked five tickets in advance for the movie.

2.  I would like to speak on a different topic. Is there any alternative choice?

3.  We presented the chief guest with a bouquet of flowers.

4.  When we entered the hall a cacophony of sound greeted us.

5.  Collect all the component parts of the machine and keep them safe.

6.  The two twins always go together.

7.  Write answers to all the following questions given below.

8.  The reason for this is because she does not want to attend classes on Saturdays.

9.  There are four different types of computers.

10.  Even after two days of discussion on the issue, there was no consensus of opinion.

In the first example above, the term ‘in advance’ is unnecessary as ‘booking’ means ‘an act of reserving tickets in advance’. The word ‘alternative’ in the second sentence is just the synonym of ‘choice’. By definition, a bouquet is a bunch of flowers; therefore, the phrase ‘of flowers’ in third sentence is unnecessary. Similarly, all words/phrases in bold are redundant. Eliminating them would make the sentences crisper.

There are mainly three types of redundant expressions: 1) adjectives that repeat the meaning already contained in the word they describe (past history, new innovation, final outcome), 2) adverbs that repeat the meaning contained in the verbs they modify (return back, attach together) and 3) two or more words which have the same meaning (but nevertheless, ATM machine). Here are some examples:

•  I am not interested in your past history.

•  The student explained her new innovation at the national conference.

•  There are many factors which determine the final outcome.

•  She will return back to Mumbai after a week.

• Don’t attach everything together.

•  She is not an influential person but nevertheless she tries to dominate others.

•  There is only one ATM machine in this part of Chennai.

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