How to Eliminate Redundancies and Keep Your Readers Engaged
Updated: Feb 21, 2022
I began my career 30 years ago as a technical editor at CH2M HILL, trained by the very best to strike out grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors; check for technical accuracy; and root out redundancies and inconsistencies. When I checked the engineers’ math in their tables, I felt victorious when I found an error!
I still get a slight thrill when I tackle a piece of verbose prose and distill it down to narrative that is engaging, concise, and pithy.
Working with engineers, architects, and planners for most of my life, I’ve found that many in these professions seem to believe their writing is more effective or impressive if they use more words to say what they mean.
So let’s tackle repetitive redundancies! (Get it?)
When I saw a client’s website for which I had written content, I noticed they had actually added redundant statements on their bios. Resumes and bios are a common place for redundancies to occur. For example:
If you list your name and title at the top of the page, you do not need to repeat them in the text. The reader is on your website, knows the name of your company, and can see your title at the top of the page.
If you list your education and credentials in a sidebar, avoid listing them in the paragraphs. The whole point of a sidebar is to make it easier for the reader. Redundancies do not help.
Make sure to mix up your words. Try to avoid describing each of your responsibilities or roles using the same words.
“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” –Blaise Pascal
“Currently working”: The verb form “-ing” denotes the current time, so “currently working” is always redundant. The same goes for “presently,” which is actually an incorrect use of the word. (We can tackle that one another time!) Just use the verb alone (e.g., “working,” “performing,” “managing.”)
“Repeat again”: “Repeat” means to do it again, so you don’t need to say “again.”
“Projected construction planned for 2021”: "Projected" and "planned for" mean the same thing, so you can eliminate one of them.
“We also prepared the engineering design, which included the design of grading, utilities, and streets”: You don’t need to say “design” twice.
“In the process of applying for site plan permits”: Once again, “applying” denotes the present tense, so you don’t need “in the process of.”
“I got home at 2 a.m. in the morning”: “a.m.” means morning, so both are unnecessary.
“In the year 2020”: You can just say “in 2020.” Your reader will understand it's a year.
“Actual fact”: A fact is actual, always, so you do not need both words.
“Close proximity”: This term is rife in engineering documents. “Close” means “proximity.” So you’re essentially saying close close.
“Past history”: History is always past.
“Postpone until later”: By definition, postponing is doing something later. Instead, you could be specific and say “postpone until next week.”
“Unexpected surprise or unintentional mistake”: Surprises and mistakes are always unexpected and unintentional.
What other examples of redundancies do you see in other people’s writing? Have you noticed this tendency in your own writing? Let me know if you can think of other examples.
Contact me if you can use some help with your writing, editing, communications, or marketing. With over 30 years of experience in the environmental consulting industry, I am passionate about sustainability and corporate citizenship, equity & inclusion, businesses that use their power for good, and doing everything I can to create a kinder, more sustainable, and just world.
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