Science

Pizza Pie: Avoiding Repeating Redundancies

When I was in school, I was told never to refer to a pizza as a “pizza pie.” That’s because the word pizza means “pie” in Italian. When you say “pizza pie,” you are literally saying “pie pie.”

 

[I digress only briefly to acknowledge that I used the word “literally” in the last sentence. I insist, however, that I used that much-abused word correctly.]

 

Every day in my work as an editor, I encounter redundancies. I am not referring to repetition on the sentence level. Most frequently, they are words or short phrases that say mostly the same thing twice. When I run across a redundancy, my editor alarm goes off: “That’s a pizza pie! Edit it!”

 

One Pizza is Enough

 

There are several good reasons to eliminate pizza pies from your writing. Perhaps the most important reason is that sentences with fewer words are easier to read and understand.

 

Here’s an example from English for Students:

 

“The accused was guilty of false misstatement.”

 

This sentence uses false and misstatement, whereas both these words convey the same meaning.

 

The correct sentence is:

 

“The accused was guilty of misstatement.”

 

I might have changed the last word to “lying.” It’s a shorter word, and it carries more punch than the legalistic “misstatement”: The accused was guilty of lying.

 

The Art of Persuasion

 

Another reason to avoid redundancies is that concise writing tends to be more persuasive. Scientific writing is a type of expository writing. All expository writing is meant to present “reasons, explanations, or steps in a process.” The point of the entire exercise is to persuade the reader that what you are saying is true. Concise, punchy prose is a powerful tool in the hands of the expository writer.

 

Some Examples

 

PR daily published this list of common redundant phrases in English writing. In each case, I have italicized the superfluous word. For each example, I recommend asking yourself why one word is better than two (or more).

 

I’ll do the first one. Added bonus is a redundancy because bonuses are added by definition.

 

  • added bonus
  • advance planning
  • armed gunman
  • circulate around
  • close proximity
  • completely full
  • consensus of opinion
  • each individual person
  • fewer in number
  • final outcome
  • free gift
  • future plans
  • general public
  • invited guests
  • join together
  • large in size
  • major breakthrough
  • my personal opinion
  • on a daily basis
  • past experience
  • past history
  • period of time
  • predict in advance
  • red in color
  • revert back
  • round in shape
  • firm in consistency
  • still continues (“remains” is better)
  • sum total
  • true fact
  • unexpected surprise
  • unsolved mystery
  • visible to the eye
  • 7 a.m. in the morning

 

I recommend you hunt for redundancies in your writing. Read the sentence out loud. Then remove the redundancy and read again. Is your sentence more natural to read? Is it punchier and more persuasive? If so, congratulations, you’ve improved your writing! If the new sentence is just as good as the original, you can probably get away with leaving it as you first wrote it. After all, writing is an art, not a science. Removing redundancies is a suggestion, not a law.