Writing Mechanics: Redundancy
Okay, I haven’t updated this section in a while, so I should probably stop being lazy and do so now! Let’s talk about redundancy. What is redundancy? Redundancy is the unnecessary use of certain words in a sentence, words that usually explain the same action more than once. Redundancy can get quite annoying sometimes. Have you spotted any examples or redundancy in the above paragraph? :P
Let’s look at a few examples below:
My heart thrummed in my chest.
Oh really? I thought it thrummed in my eye. Unless your heart is located in your eye because you are some otherworldly creature, it’s always going to be located in your chest, so there’s no point to state it twice. So, as Strunk and White said in their brilliant book on grammar, The Elements of Style: “Omit needless words!”
Here’s another example.
He nodded his head.
I can understanding saying he shook his head, because he might be shaking something else, but how many times have you heard of a character nodding his arm or nodding his toes? When we read he nodded we already associate that action with the head, so do as Strunk and White would do and omit needless words!
The important thing to remember is that WE ALL DO THIS in our first drafts (we are too busy regurgitating the story onto the page). Don’t worry about it then. Worry about it in your second draft. Scan the manuscript. Delete, delete, delete! Our keen eyes might not even pick up these redundancies until our third drafts! The important thing is to catch these redundancies before you send your novel to your editor or, if you’re self-publishing, before it goes into print.
I know we can’t avoid redundancies all the time, and sometimes you won’t want to (know the rules and know when to break them), but when you can you will be left with a manuscript that reads much smoother.
Here are some more examples:
bouquet (of flowers)
equal (to one another)
fall (down) (exception: unless your story is sci-fi and you’re falling UP!)
full (to capacity)
There are a bunch more! If you’re interested in finding out what they are, visit this site: