Creative Writing Writing 101 2018-04-30 00:00

Repeating Yourself is Redundant: or, A Pleonasm For Your Thoughts?

Have you ever read a sentence that makes you cringe? For me, when words repeat for no reason my skin crawls. Take this sentence from a book I'm currently reading:

  • My bright, rainbow-dyed hair whips across my face.

This sentence makes me shiver in my bones. Can you spot the issue? It’s repetitive and redundant. The word my defines possession twice in the same sentence. This is an example of pleonasm.

  1. Pleonasm Defined
  2. Common Examples of Pleonasm
  3. Avoiding Pleonasm

Pleonasm Defined

Pleonasm is using more words than necessary to express an idea, otherwise known as being redundant. The sentence above is a great example of pleonasm in action. Since the sentence is written in the first person, overusing my is redundant. It isn’t necessary to explain both the hair and face belong to the point-of-view character.

Common Examples of Pleonasm

Consider these examples:

  • I saw it with my own eyes.

You couldn’t have seen it with someone else’s eyes, so just use: I saw it.

  • It’s time that we meet.

An unnecessary that is the most common pleonasm. You should consider cutting that out of your writing forever. Keep your writing clean and simple: It’s time we meet.

  • I do love you.

In this example, do is unnecessary. It’s used as emphasis but the sentence works fine without the extra word.

  • We’re heading up north.

Up isn’t needed in the sentence. While it’s common in speech, the word is redundant to north. Likewise, down south is redundant, as is out west. If you’re from Philadelphia, consider down shore to be just plain wrong! Unless these extra words are intentionally part of your character’s voice, cut them.

Avoiding Pleonasm

Pleonasms are common in speech and colloquial language, which makes them difficult to avoid in writing. However, removing pleonasms can increase the impact of your words and reduce reader cringes.

Let’s look back at the original sentence:

  • My bright, rainbow-dyed hair whips across my face.

While grammatically correct with the redundancy, removing the pleonasm improves the impact of the writing. Consider this sentence instead:

  • Bright, rainbow-dyed hair whips across my face.

One word less, yet the sentence is no longer cringe-induing. The reader understands the hair belongs to the character and the language is stronger and more effective.

ProWritingAid’s Style Check will flag most pleonasms as “readability enhancements”. Hunt down the pleonasms in your writing and keep your readers from wincing.

Be confident about grammar

Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.