Language is like the body. If you don’t work to keep it in shape, it gets out of shape. Being redundant and saying what’s implied are two ways that happen.
A few days ago, I received an email telling me a seminar I was registered to attend “has been postponed until a later date.”
Ummm… if it’s “postponed” I already know it’s not going to happen “until a later date.”
Initially, I wondered if the writer being repetitive because she doesn’t know the definition of postpone or because she thought I don’t know the definition. I concluded she has probably heard and/or written it that way so many times that it sounds normal to her.
I’m sure me and a lot of others who write for a living probably do the same thing. But, as professional writers, we need to be more vigilant about it because repetitive and unnecessary words can have unintended effects.
At a minimum, redundancies make our work bloated and extra lengthy. They can make our writing harder to read and understand. They can raise questions about our character and our competence. And they can be viewed as insulting or a turn-off.
Here are some examples of out-of-shape wording:
Personal Friend: We often make relationships more complicated than they need to be. But claiming someone is a “personal friend” is just ridiculous. No one can get away with claiming, She’s my friend, but not my personal friend. You’re friends or you’re not. If you are, it’s always personal.
Absolutely essential/necessary: If something is essential or necessary, it’s a must. No questions about it. “Absolutely” means wholly, entirely, completely, etc. Saying “absolutely essential” or “absolutely necessary” is redundant because nothing can be somewhat necessary or partially essential.
Heat up: If anyone heats something, we already know the temperature isn’t going down. So instead of saying, Mary went to heat up the soup, it’s okay to say, Mary went to heat the soup.
Advance planning: If the thinking didn’t happen in advance, it wasn’t a plan. You can’t concoct the plan after the fact.
Advance warning: If someone doesn’t tell you about gunfire until after you’re shot, it’s not a warning, nor is it helpful. A warning is information provided in advance, usually to prevent harm.
Actual facts/truth: “Actual” is usually unnecessary in these cases. What other types of facts and truth are there?
When someone says “actual facts” or “actual truth” it suggests:
*they either have a reputation of lying and want to be believed this time,
*they’re providing information to counter information that was portrayed as factual but isn’t.
Either way, it raises a question of trustworthiness.
Added bonus: All bonuses are added. Otherwise, it isn’t a bonus.
Close proximity: Proximity means close or near. Using the two words together is the same as saying “close nearness.” Imagine writing, When she looked up, his close nearness scared her. That sounds ridiculous, right?
Completely destroyed: Nothing can be partially destroyed. If a tree falls a bathroom, the home is not partially destroyed. The bathroom is destroyed. The home is damaged.
Completely full: What’s the difference between, Sorry, the bus is full and Sorry, the bus is completely full? Nothing, except one takes more space and time. “Full” already means the complete capacity.
Every single person: Unless you’re talking about single people versus couples, you’re being verbose. “Every person” does the job just fine. “Everyone” does it better.
Free gift: If it’s not free, it’s not a gift.
Bald headed: Unless you’re writing porn, when you’re talking about humans, we already know “bald” refers to the head.
End result: The only time anyone can get a result is at the end.
This list is just to get you thinking. There are many more examples, and some of them probably sound so normal that we use them every day and don’t think about it. If you want to bring them to our attention, do your thing in the comments section.