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Unnecessary redundancies that are not needed

John Murray

In writing and linguistics, one term that crops up a lot is “redundancy”. The word is an ugly one in any sense, especially since 2008 when the global economic downturn started and unemployment rates rose. However, in writing it refers to a disagreeable, if usually accidental, habit.

Redundancy is simply  the practice of saying the same thing more than once. Most commonly, this is done by using an adjective that isn’t needed, because its meaning is implicit in the noun it describes. The term ‘free gift’ is a good example; if you have to pay for a gift, then it isn’t free. The term is regularly used, however, especially by advertisers.

Indeed, many phrases that contain a redundant adjective have become used so idiomatically that they’re now widely accepted. Consider terms like ‘head honcho’, ‘added bonus’, ‘future plans’ and ‘polar opposites’. To the keen eye, these adjectives add nothing to the noun phrase, but we hear them so regularly that we barely register this.

Even so, writers should do their best to avoid them, as it can come across as padding an article out to meet a word count. For a comedy example of extreme redundancy making an article nonsensical, take a look at the ‘Redundancy’ article on the Wikipedia parody site Uncyclopedia. Even the same pictures, quotes and subsections appear repeatedly.

Serious written pieces are never that bad, but it’s not uncommon for editors to wince at such phrases as “9am in the morning”. This is where I’m going to get a particular annoyance of mine off my chest – writers who misuse the word ‘include’.

‘Include’ means to form part of something, so it makes no sense to write the following:

“The fair will include rides, raffles, games and more.”

The “and more” is redundant, because the word ‘include’ implies that there are more. Similarly, this doesn’t work either:

“The three guests at the event will include Tom, Richard and Mark.”

The guests don’t include them, they ARE them! There’s no fourth guest there.

To me, the above phrases read like the worst cases of flabby writing, but there are plenty of other examples. Are there any redundant phrases that you find especially irritating?

John is every inch the wordsmith and loves a game of Scrabble above all else. With experience writing for newspapers, John’s time at university was spent studying Creative Writing – something which comes across in his love of the pun.

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