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Purge Your Unnecessary Redundancies!
By Paul Krantz

We’ve all had the experience of driving home from work, but not remembering the trip. We jokingly say we were “driving on auto-pilot."

I often have a similar experience while writing. I get lost in thought as I pound out the paragraphs, and am a little astonished when I’m done, not sure how I got there. These first drafts are often filled with cliches, which are usually easy to spot.. A much subtler problem is redundant phrases.

Consider this typical paragraph, written on autopilot:

My personal opinion is that advance planning is absolutely essential for companies who can’t afford to lag behind their competitors. Past experience has shown that the basic fundamentals of planning ahead include developing a general consensus of opinion among staff and carefully scrutinizing all ideas.

That’s 45 words and an average sentence length of 22.5 words. Can reduce those numbers? Yes, if we weed out the words that don’t add to the meaning to the text. Here’s the same graf with the redundant words highlighted:

My personal opinion is that advance planning is absolutely essential for companies who can’t afford to lag behind their competitors. Past experience has shown that the basic fundamentals of planning ahead include developing a general consensus of opinion and carefully scrutinizing all ideas.

Here’s our text with the redundant words removed:

My opinion is that planning is essential for companies who can’t afford to lag their competitors. Experience has shown that the fundamentals of planning include developing a consensus among staff and scrutinizing all ideas.

We’re down to 34 words and 17 words per sentence. Editing out the redundancies improves readability and clarity.

If you’d like to see a collection of the most common redundancies, visit here, here and this wonderful list from George Carlin.

To ferret out your own redundancies, focus on adjectives (words that describe nouns -- “personal" opinion) and adverbs (words that describe verbs -- “carefully" scrutinize). If you’ve chosen strong nouns and verbs, you’ll find you can rid your copy of most adjectives and adverbs without changing the meaning of your text.

And if you can’t take these helper words out, find nouns and verbs that gets the message across without the extra help.

Pro tip: In Microsoft Word’s grammar checker, redundancies are often flagged as “wordiness.”
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