Avoiding Redundancy

A redundant word or phrase repeats an idea expressed elsewhere in a sentence. In some types of writing, redundancy is recommended or even required. For example, legal documents may include multiple words with similar meanings when there is even the slightest possibility that the words in questions might be interpreted differently. In most types of writing, however, redundancy is something you should strive to avoid. Below are examples of some of the most common types of redundancy found in modern American English, as well as examples of how to avoid them.

Simple Redundancy

In many cases, redundant words are glaringly obvious:

The non-profit raises over a million dollars in annual donations each year. 

“Annual” and “each year” have the same meaning. Fixing this sentence simply requires removing one of these:

The non-profit raises over a million dollars in annual donations.
The non-profit raises over a million dollars in donations each year.

Basic redundancies usually occur when a person doesn’t proofread a piece of writing before submitting it. Make sure you check important correspondence for redundancy and other common writing errors before you hit “send.”

Unnecessary Intensifiers

Intensifiers (absolutely, positively, etc.) are acceptable in casual speech and writing but should be avoided in formal writing:

The English Island has absolutely, positively the best English teachers in Atlanta.

If you were gushing to a friend about your amazing experience at the English Island, this would be acceptable. If, on the other hand, you were making a recommendation for English classes to your company, you would want to delete the intensifiers:

The English Island has the best English teachers in Atlanta.

Subtler Examples of the Redundancy

Sometimes less obvious types of redundancy creep into our writing because we are not thinking carefully about the meaning behind the words and phrases that we are using. Consider the following examples:

Other than their appearance, the twins have nothing in common with each other.

We don’t need “with each other” because it is understood that we are comparing the twins.

I have a student of mine whose parents insist on daily progress updates.

“Of mine” is redundant because “I have” expresses the idea that the student has been assigned to me.