Redundant and Repetitive

04 APR 2017

REDUNDANT AND REPETITIVE

There is a lot to be said of brevity. Shakespeare wrote somewhat ironically through the mouthpiece of the long-winded Polonius in Hamlet that “brevity is the soul of wit.”

And William Strunk reminds us in Elements of Style that “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

Excellent copywriting should be brief and vibrant; take care to remove any unneeded “filler” words and phrases. It is important to look for these filler words that drag your copy down, making them dull and redundant.

One example of redundancy that rings clear in my mind comes from my elementary school grammar class: “I was home alone, all by myself.” Unless you’re using this sentence to create a character or style specific to your work, this is poor writing. To say that “I was home alone” necessarily implies that I am “all by myself,” making the second half of this sentence useless from a copywriter’s standpoint.

But what about those common phrases that can be easy to overlook – is something “absolutely essential,” or is it simply “essential?” “Basic fundamentals” are either “basics” or “fundamentals,” both able to stand alone quite nicely. Now consider “past experience,” “new innovations,” “qualified expert,” and “postpone until later” – there are better, briefer alternatives to all of these phrases.

A little hard-nosed editing will rid your copy of these superfluous filler verbs. In summarizing this already much-too-long blog about brevity, remember the words of Thomas Jefferson:

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

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