Monday, November 11, 2013

Ten Writing Tighteners Series: Redundancy

Photo by teddy-rised

Writers can use words to pave the way to a good story or lay a foundation of information. Conversely, they can inadvertently clutter the page and impede the reader.

Imagine a cobblestone path. Each stone represents a word. Every redundant term's stone is stacked atop the one which implies or mirrors its meaning. Readers will stumble over those stacks of blocks, complicating their journey to a good story or understanding.                          
Photo by teddy-rised
These are some I've come across while critiquing manuscripts, my own and others'. I'm certain there are tons of others I've missed. If you know of some, please add them in the comments section below.

1. set implies down
Jane set the obese rabbit down into the magician's hat.
Jane set the obese rabbit into the magician's hat. 

2. stand implies up
I stand up in front of the monster.
I stand in front of the monster.
--The only time I'd give a directional word with stand is if, in a military sense, someone gives an order to 'stand down'.

Photo by lgh75
3. ran implies quickly
She ran quickly away from the unicorn.
She ran away from the unicorn. 
--Running in general gives the automatic impression that it's done quickly, if it is in slow motion, then it's worth mentioning how it's done. Honestly, according to most writing experts, at least all that I've come across, when the appropriate verb has been chosen the need for an adverb is negated.
(also see #17)

4. from/away
Using the previous sentence:
She ran away from the unicorn.
She ran from the unicorn. 

5. a/single
A single bead of sweat fell off the end of his nose.
A bead of sweat fell off the end of his nose.

6. angular/sharp
His sharp, angular jawline was sprinkled with whiskers.
His angular jawline was sprinkled with whiskers.

7. nod/consent
I motion for them to get started, and they nod their consent.
I motion for them to get started, and they nod.

8. stride/briskly
This one is pretty much the same thing as #3.
He strides briskly across the marbled foyer.
He strides across the marbled foyer.

9. plural words  (i.e. men) preceded by some
Some men flew in on winged horses.
Celina Bobcats
Men flew in on winged horses.

10. huddle/together
The team will huddle together before the break.
The team will huddle before the break.

11. Any question/wonder 
Why would he do that? I wondered.
Why would he do that? 

12. a/n [adjective] look implies on [pronoun] face
She wore a pensive look on her face.
She wore a pensive look.

13. lay or lie/down
I lay down on the bed.
I lay on the bed.
--This is similar to #2. Unless one is referring to being ill and laid up, it will be assumed if someone lay somewhere, they are laying down. You could argue that someone could 'lie back' and this would be true. The author needs to decide what is needed for the reader to understand the passage, at the same time remembering the 'never say in three words what you can say in two' rule of thumb.

14. any word meaning to physically cross a space implies over 
I ran over to the edge of the cliff.
ran to the edge of the cliff.

15. clearly/obvious 
He clearly loved her, it was obvious.
He clearly loved her.

16. to talk/to discuss 
There was so much to talk about, to discuss.
There was so much to talk about.

My daughter, Alex, and Troy, Prom 2013
17. [verb]/the adverb attached 
He smiled warmly into her eyes.
He smiled into her eyes.
--Unless he's smiling coldly or calculatingly, or some other non-normal way, the reader assumes it's a warm smile.

18. When positions of characters are already plain from the surrounding text it alludes to the direction of their actions
--If she is on a bed and he is standing next to the bed, then in the below sentence down is not necessary.
He looked down at her.
He looked at her.

19. Actions of body parts, which have to happen in a particular space or place, there's no need to spell out the place or space
He waved his hands in the air like a madman.
He waved his hands like a madman.
--If he's waiving his hands, they're gonna be in the air unless he's dunked them into a vat of oil or something else, then you'd want to explain where he waved them.

20. The SHOWING of an action or emotion infers the TELLING about the action or emotion.
He gritted his teeth and the vein at his temple pulsed. He was angry.
He gritted his teeth and the vein at his temple pulsed. 
--The SHOWING portion tells the reader he was angry. There's no need to spell out the emotion. Strong writing shows the emotion usually without needing to name the emotion.
My daughter, Alex, & her friend Haley, Prom 2013

21. reached/out
She reached out to touch my face.
She touched my face.
--Unless they are reaching INTO something, then it might be necessary to spell it out, maybe, depending on how it's done.)

21.1. A character [or insert noun here] touches something alludes to reached
His hand reached out to cup her cheek.
He cupped her cheek.
-If his hand cups her cheek, he must have reached out, so it's redundant to explain the mechanics.

22. Dialogue plainly spoken by a particular character implies the s/he asked/said following or preceding it.
--If there are only two characters in the scene, let's use Jane and John for the example, and one of them uses the other's name in the dialogue, then saying s/he said/asked is redundant, because the reader already knows who's speaking.
John, you can't really believe that," she said. OR He asks, "What would you have me do, Jane?"
John, you can't really believe that."  OR  "What would you have me do, Jane?"

23. Stacked descriptions
It was pitch black, no light came through the windows.
No light came through the windows.
- If it's pitch black, it's understood no light is coming from anywhere, right?

Alex, Sr. Casual Photo 2013
24. a position described infers position
She was in a standing position.
She was standing.
--If she's standing, the reader knows that's the position she's in.

25. Action alludes to the intent 
He pulled open the door to walk inside.
He pulled open the door.
--Unless he's pulling open a door for some other reason, i.e. to let out poisonous gas, or show someone that they should get the hell out, it's not necessary to tell the reader their purpose for their action.

26. Any time 'look' is followed by a directional word (i.e. up, down, over, across), and then trailed by an obvious place they are looking, the direction is implied.
I looked up at the sky.
I looked at the sky.
Obviously, the sky is up, so the up can easily be left out and the reader would still completely understand the direction the character is looking.

If you've found this post helpful, or if you think it will be helpful to others, please tweet about or or share on Facebook. Also, I'm working on growing my readership. I invite you to join this site. There are five post to come in the Ten Writing Tighteners Series. You can have them delivered right to your inbox by signing up for emails from this blog.

Ten Writing Tightener Series will include
1. Filters 10/14/13
2. Dead-weight Words 10/21/13
3. Echoes 10/28/13
4. Sentence Structure Stagnation 11/4/13
5. Redundancy 11/11/13
6. Telling vs. Showing 11/18/13
7. Voice Not Character Appropriate 11/25/13
8. Brevity Blunders 12/09/13
9. Head Hopping 12/16/13
10. Underestimating the Reader 12/23/13


  1. These all seem so obvious, but even quickly scanning through my first draft I find I'm guilty of more than one. Thanks goodness for revisions and these reminders! This series is bookmarked, a definite fave (and I tweeted!)

    1. I can not even tell you how happy I am you are gleaning good tips from my series! *Snoopy dances* AND thank you so much for sharing with your friends via Twitter.

  2. This info is great. Thanks for using so many examples! That really helps!


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