Articles / On Writing

Redundancy

Redundancy invades our writing like a weed, sending runners underground to choke and bog down our stories. Many of us don’t realize we are adding redundant or unnecessary words to our writing. I’d like to discuss some of the redundancies I see most often and ways to streamline your writing and eliminate the redundancy.

Body Movement Redundancy

More often than not I hear and have given authors the advice to “show, don’t tell.” And while this is good advice in many instances, there are times when it simply creates redundancy. Body movement is one of those times. Let’s look at the word shrug in the following sentence:

Maryann shrugged her shoulders.

When I encounter one of these body movement redundancies, I always want to say, “Of course she shrugged her shoulders. What else is she going to shrug, her feet?” It is sufficient to simply say, she shrugged. The fact that she shrugged her shoulders is understood and need not be mentioned. The list below shows the best way to eliminate this type of redundancy.

  • Shrug: She shrugged her shoulders.
  • Nod: The waiter nodded his head.
  • Nod in affirmation: He nodded his head in agreement.*
  • Blink: The child blinked his eyes.
  • Stand: He stood up
  • Handholding: She held his hand in hers.
  • Reach: Charles reached out and stroked her cheek with his hand.
  • Moved: Amy moved to opened the door and she let him in.

* A word about nod in affirmation. When someone nods, they show agreement or affirmation, so there no need to mention what the word nod clearly shows.

The Senses Redundancy

RedundantAnother type of redundancy deals with the senses. In an effort to “show,” many authors will tell the reader what the point of view character is observing by using watch, see, hear, etc. But the reader can assume that they are seeing things unfold from the perspective of the point of view character, so those reminders aren’t needed.

  • Watch
    • Redundant: Martin watched the car drive away.
    • Streamlined: The car drove away.
  • Saw
    • Redundant: I saw Shari walk across the room.
    • Streamlined: Shari walked across the room.
  • Hear
    • Redundant: Teresa heard Mark call her name.
    • Streamlined: Mark called her name.
  • Feel
    • Redundant: She felt his breath caress her bare shoulder.
    • Streamlined: His breath caressed her bare shoulder.
  • Smell
    • Redundant: Bobby’s nose smelled the enticing aroma of apple pie.
    • Streamlined: The aroma of apple pie enticed Bobby.

Implied Prepositional Redundancy

This particular redundancy has to do with the prepositions at, to, with, for, on, or from combined with me, her, him, us, them, or us. In other words, any one of these prepositions combined with any one of these pronouns. Many times, but certainly not all, these types of phrases (at her, for me, on him, etc.) can be eliminated because it is understood. Take the following examples. In each one, the redundant prepositional phrase is crossed out because it is implied.

  • At: When George saw me, he glared at me.
  • To: Samuel gazed at Patricia and proposed to her.
  • With: He asked her to come along with him.
  • For: When we scored the winning basket, our fans cheered for us.
  • On: Margery removed their blanket that was on them.
  • From: He took your umbrella from you and opened it.

While this is certainly not an all-inclusive list, it is a good tool to get you started in your efforts to eliminate redundancy in your writing. What other redundancies have you noticed that I didn’t address in this article? Please, share in the comments below!

Now… go write something!


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