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Category : Writing Tips

Eliminating Redundancies: Round 2

As noted in Round 1 of Eliminating Redundancies, redundancies are created by unnecessarily expressing the same idea or using the same word or phrase repeatedly. While some repetition may be necessary, to preserve the focus of a paper or paragraph, too much is actually detrimental. Here are some more examples of redundancies and how to fix them:

  • The United States Civil War began in 1861. On April 12, 1861, civil war broke out when battle broke out at Fort Sumter. The Civil War is the most deadly war (measured by per capita deaths) in American history, with at least 600,000 deaths caused by the war. The Civil War is also the first example of total war, which is so-called because of its totality. Total war touches all parts of societies. Total war had touched all parts of American society by 1865.

Words that are too close together include:

  • The United States Civil War began in 1861. On April 12, 1861, civil war broke out when battle broke out at Fort Sumter. The Civil War is the most deadly war (measured by per capita deaths) in American history, with at least 600,000 deaths caused by the war. The Civil War is also the first example of total war, which is so-called because of its totality. Total war touches all parts of societies. Total war had touched all parts of American society by 1865.
  • The United States Civil War began in 1861. On April 12, 1861, civil war broke out when  battle broke out at Fort Sumter.
  • The Civil War is the most deadly war (measured by per capita deaths) in American history, with at least 600,000 deaths caused by the war.
  • The Civil War is also the first example of total war, which is so-called because of its totality. Total war touches all parts of societies. Total war had touched all parts of American society by 1865.
  • Total war touches all parts of societies. Total war had touched all parts of American society by 1865.

The paragraph would read better if written:

  • The United States Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when battle broke out at Fort Sumter. By 1865, there were more than 600,000 casualties. In terms of per capita deaths, the Civil War is the deadliest in American history. It is also the first example of total war, so-called because it touches all parts of societies. Certainly, by the time the Confederate Army surrendered, the War Between the States had left untouched no sector of American life.

Note how redundancy is eliminated by:

  • Varying vocabulary (e.g. “parts of societies” vs. “sector of American life”).
  • Replacing proper nouns with more generic nouns (e.g. “Civil War” vs. “it”). In other cases, demonstrative adjectives, such as “that” or “this”, can fulfill the same purpose.
  • Providing new and substantive details (e.g. “the War Between the States” is both a way of not saying “Civil War” again and a way of telling readers that the Civil War is also known by another name).
  • Not expressing the same idea more than once when this is unnecessary. (“The United States Civil War began in 1861. On April 12, 1861, civil war broke out when battle broke out at Fort Sumter.” It is obvious from the first sentence that the “Civil War began in 1861”. Therefore, it is not necessary to begin the second sentence with, “On April 12, 1861, civil war broke out”. The two sentences can be combined as: “The United States Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when battle broke out at Fort Sumter.”)

Eliminating Redundancies: Round 1

Redundancies are created by unnecessarily expressing the same idea or using the same word or phrase repeatedly. While it is often a good idea to mention the topic of a paper or paragraph more than once, so as to remind the reader of the paper or paragraph’s focus, mentioning a topic too much can actually detract from the quality of your writing. Likewise, mentioning a noun (especially a proper noun) too often, without substituting, for example, “she”, “he”, “this”, or “these”, can seem overbearing and is typically considered poor form. Variation is one key to good writing. Consider this example:

  • This paper will focus on the history of American literature. This paper will start by focusing on the history of American literature as it relates to the history of literature, in general. The history of literature is, generally, related to the history of humanity. The history of American literature is particularly concerned with the history of humanity because early American settlers and political leaders were highly influenced by the Age of Enlightenment, which was highly concerned with humanity.

This paragraph makes several mistakes. It uses some words far too often – and a few more than once in the same sentence. The word “history” appears seven times, while the word “literature” appears five times, and the word “humanity” and phrase “history of American literature” three times each. While there is sometimes a fine line between using a word or phrase too little, just enough, and too much, in general, it is best to not use the same word twice in the same sentence (when the word is distinctive, e.g. history, but not necessarily when the word is generic, e.g. it) and to vary your word choice in both sentences and paragraphs (just as you should vary sentence structure).

Consider the following examples of words that are too close together:

  • This paper will focus on the history of American literature. This paper will start by focusing on the history of American literature as it relates to the history of literature, in general.
  • This paper will start by focusing on the history of American literature as it relates to the history of literature, in general. The history of literature is, generally, related to the history of humanity.
  • The history of American literature is particularly concerned with the history of humanity because early American settlers and political leaders were highly influenced by the Age of Enlightenment, which was highly concerned with humanity.
  • The history of American literature is particularly concerned with the history of humanity because early American settlers and political leaders were highly influenced by the Age of Enlightenment, which was highly concerned with humanity.
  • The history of American literature is particularly concerned with the history of humanity because early American settlers and political leaders were highly influenced by the Age of Enlightenment, which was highly concerned with humanity.

This paragraph could be rewritten to read:

  • This paper will focus on the history of American literature. It will start by considering the history of literature, which is, generally, related to the history of humanity. American literature has tended to be concerned with the course of human development, in part because early American settlers and political leaders were highly influenced by the Age of Enlightenment, which focused largely on understanding humanity.

Also, remember that variety and focus are not mutually exclusive. When varying your choice of words and phrases, try to avoid expressing or referring to key ideas that have already been mentioned in new but unnecessarily complicated ways.

Internet vs. Books

You may ask yourself: if the Internet has everything I need to help me write my paper, why do I have to use books at all? Isn’t all the important information online by now? Well the simple answer is this: the Internet does have a lot of information, but much of it is NEW information. Think about the fact that humans have been writing things down for thousands and thousands of years…in so many different languages! So, naturally, not all of this is online. However, quite a lot of it is found in libraries, archives, or in academic journals. To take your writing to the next level, remember to use all the resources available to you, not just the internet; you may even want to use movies, songs, poems, or photos if the situation permits. Sure, the Internet can give you quick and easy answers, but if you want to be even more in-depth, take a visit to the library.