Rid Your Writing of Redundant Words
As further examples of redundant wording, I have included my personal blunders, along with suggested corrections.
After having the first chapter of my book critiqued, these are the mistakes I made. These sentences are good examples of redundant word usage as mentioned in Writing Tip – Clear Writing No. 1 (in my previous blog). I’ve included a better sentence structure below each example.
Read each sentence and find words that are repetitive in meaning, and words that add nothing to the sentence. Remember, your objective is to come up with a clean, clear, and concise sentence. And notice how much shorter my sentences become when I delete redundant and repetitive words. During rewrites, these redundancies become crucial. The biggest flaw with new writers is we use too many words when less words can say the same thing.
With her mother’s words
still lingering in her ear, she ignored the sealed, unmarked envelope and placed it in the trash pile.
Still doesn’t add anything to the sentence. If you take it out, has it changed the sentence? “…in her ear” is deleted because where else would words linger? The preposition is redundant. “…ignored…” should be deleted because “she” didn’t really ignore the envelope IF she placed it in the trash, did she? I restructured the sentence as follows:
Example 1 Corrected
With her mother’s words lingering, she placed the sealed, unmarked envelope in the trash.
Curious, she cocked her head
to the side then picked it up.
To cock your head means to lean it to the side. So, cocked and to the side mean the same thing and come off as redundant. Also, the way the sentence reads, it sounds as if “she” picked up her head.
Example 2 Corrected
Curious, she cocked her head then she picked up the envelope.
She straightened the folds of the letter,
as she walked toward the window, and peered down at the snow forming soft white mounds onto her 37 acres.
No need for “as she.” Deleting it and adding a comma cuts down on wording. “…peered down.” What you didn’t know about this scene is that the woman is in the attic.
Second, the English gurus tell us that directional terms should be avoided. Delete “down.” For example, do you really need to say “she looked up at the sky?” Of course not. Simply say “she looked at the sky.” Why? Because the sky is always UP, never down.
The next deletion was “soft.” Snow is always soft, maybe not as soft as cotton if it’s mixed with ice, but all of us think of snow as soft. It’s an automatic way of thinking. If you delete “soft” does it take away from what is being said? No. Then delete it.
Why delete “white?” Is snow another color? Snow is always white. It’s redundant to say it and deleting it cuts down on word count. You see how redundancy can get in the way of clarity?
Example 3 Corrected
She straightened the folds of the letter, walked toward the window, and peered at the snow forming mounds onto her 37 acres.
at a tear and promised not to cry.
Though this sentence is short and you wouldn’t think it’s a problem, it has one word too many. In addition, the sentence as originally written sounds like she “missed” the tear when she swiped at it. I didn’t want the sentence to come off that way to the reader so I deleted “at.” Now it sounds like she “swiped a tear” and it comes across like she was irritated, agitated, or in a hurry when she did so.
Example 4 Corrected
She swiped a tear and promised not to cry.
Melba stood in the doorway
of the bathroom and stared at the box with contempt.
Remember the list of words I said needed to be deleted in Writing Tips – Clarity No. 1? Go through your writing and delete every of, and, but, to, then, was, been, am, is, being, were, and that wherever possible. (Okay, I added to the list.) You will see how smooth your writing sounds and flows when you rid yourself of these pesty articles and “to be” verbs.
Example 5 Corrected
Melba stood in the bathroom doorway and stared at the box with contempt.
As Lucille Jeffries’ only child, Melba
could somewhat sympathize with her mother’s concern to take care of her.
The general rule here is to avoid qualifiers such as rather, very, little, pretty, etc. And if you delete “could” and add a “d” to sympathize, that would shorten the sentence even more.
Example 6 Corrected
As Lucille Jeffries’ only child, Melba sympathized with her mother’s concern to take care of her.
She dug her nails into another seam and ripped again
and again until her elbows and shoulders burned with pain.
Repeating a word or phrase doesn’t always come across as we
would like intended. We do it for emphasis. I kind of like it, but it is redundant. (See how I deleted redundancy from this comment.)
Example 7 Corrected
She dug her nails into another seam and ripped again until her elbows and shoulders burned with pain.
Or if you want to convey that the “ripping”
went on and on continued, you could might rewrite it as:
She dug her nails into another seam and continued to rip the wallpaper until her elbows and shoulders burned with pain.
I hope these tips work for you and I’ve provided insight to better writing. I’m learning as I go and hoping to take you with me for the ride.
Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Author, Poet