Do you use redundancies in your writing? I do.
A redundancy is defined (in my dictionary, at least) as “superfluous repetition,” or “the part of a message that can be eliminated without loss of essential information” (Merriam-Webster). Also, “the use of surplus words.” (Same dictionary, different edition.) I’ve noticed in my writing I have a tendency to use redundancies. They seem to creep in when I’m not looking hard enough, and rushing through just to get words on paper. If I read over what I’ve written and look at it carefully and dispassionately, I can usually spot them. It can be tricky, though, because some redundancies are ingrained in our language, and we’re used to them in speaking all the time. I’ve seen them in the writing of others, too, so I’m not alone. Here’s ten I’ve seen over the past year or so:
“Thousands protest against Quran burning.” A headline on the Yahoo news page. Isn’t a protest usually against something anyway?
“Two identical twins.” I don’t remember where I saw this, but it begs the question, how many twins does it take to be identical?
“Kills bugs dead.” From the Raid commercials. No comment.
“May have a chance to win a prize.” I heard this one on the radio. Either you have a chance, or you may win a prize. No need for both.
“About five or six years old.” This is one I’m guilty of. Better is: “About six years old,” or “Five or six years old.”
“A small group of eight musicians.” Another of my goofs. A group of eight musicians is usually considered a small group, compared to, say, a symphony orchestra. No need to emphasize it.
“Infinitesimally tiny.” I’ve seen this around and written it myself, but “infinitesimal” means immeasurably or incalculably small (same dictionary), so the “tiny” isn’t needed.
“Staring intently.” Again, another of my faux pas. To stare is to look at intently. No need for the adverb.
“Swinging back and forth.” If something, like a pendulum, is swinging, it’s going back and forth.
“Alien planet.” No planet anywhere in outer space is going to be exactly like Earth, so wouldn’t another planet roaming around out there be alien almost by definition? Why emphasize it?
There are a lot more redundancies floating around, like planets in the ether, and we use them because they’ve become a part of our lexicon. The only defense is careful reading and re-reading of what has been written and a solid knowledge of the definitions of the words used. A good dictionary and thesaurus are essential. Enough said.