The Annals of Redundancy Annals

You Can Say That Again: 750 Phrases to Think Twice About

Available in book form as of April 1, 2015:

Ever dig into a book with relish?

Scratch that. Dig into says “with relish.”

Ever dig into a book? The other night, my husband did just that. He had heard good things about it. He couldn’t wait to read it. He adjusted the lights for reading, settled into his recliner, cranked up his feet, and gave the author what every author dreams of: undivided attention. A few pages in, he pitched the book into the recycle bin. Why? Because it was filled with distractingly redundant writing like this:

And yet, the man thought to himself contradictorily…

Double duh! First, the man is thinking to himself. To whom else would he think? We don’t need himself. Second, the man is thinking contradictorily. How else would and yet cross his mind? We don’t need contradictorily. If the author had stopped at “And yet, the man thought,” my husband might have finished the book. And if the author had stopped at “And yet”—giving readers the satisfaction of figuring out that the man is thinking those words—my husband might, by now, be urging this book on his friends.

Eight words. Two words. Eight words. Two words. I could add “hands weighing,” but you don’t need that visual-verbal redundancy: you already picture the hands.

Here’s an example of visual-verbal redundancy that comes straight from my mailbox:

envelope | how to write

“See inside for details.” Somebody paid to have this line printed. On an envelope. Envelopes, in their very envelopeness, say, I envelop something. Guess where you can find it! Hint: It’s not here on the outside.

I’ve even run into aural-verbal redundancy. I used to work with a woman named Tina whose mother began every phone call this way: “HA-llo. DEE-na. DEES eez your MAH-ther.” Thanks for telling me, Ma. It could have been an impersonator.

Redundancy. Unhelpful duplication. Bryan A. Garner describes it as “the result of semiconscious writing.” [1] Redundancy creeps into everyone’s writing. At best, it adds bloat. At worst, it insults readers’ intelligence.

We don’t intend to insult readers, so why do we do it? Because we’re thinking about our meaning, not our words. In the great stew of language, words with similar meanings stick together. When we dip into the pot, we often scoop out more than we need.

Every day I gather redundant phrases from TV, radio, the web, books, labels, billboards, conversations—including my part in those conversations. If you’re going to collect something, why not something that costs nothing, requires no space, hurts no one, makes people smile, and offers itself in abundance? This hobby is as easy as picking up bits of gravel from a country driveway, each bit taking on value only because someone noticed it.

Of course, redundancy depends on the context. As technical writer Alex Fornuto says, “There’s always room for argument with these things.” Take live show. Alex notes that if you’re talking to friends about an upcoming performance, all you have to say is the show—your friends know that it’s live. On the other hand, if you’re inviting people over to watch a TV show, say Saturday Night Live, and you want them to know that it’s not a rerun, you might want to say the live show or even the live Live show. Okay, I’m messing with you. You’d never say the live Live show to your friends, no matter how much you might enjoy saying it to yourself.

Here’s another example: whether or not. The or not is “usually superfluous” since “whether implies or not,” as Garner notes [2], but sometimes you need the whole phrase. Take these two sentences:

My friend can’t decide whether to change jobs. [Or not is not needed.]

Whether or not my friend changes jobs, she’ll change the world. [Or not is needed.]

And who would want to remove the brilliant redundancy from Raymond Carver’s short-story (and book) title “Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?”

You get it. Redundancy depends.

So don’t take my list as gospel. To get the most out of it, read it in the spirit of fun in which it was conceived. If the silliness of phrases like armed gunman and boat marina tickles you, you have much to look forward to here. For me, redundancies like these rival Tom Swifties for entertainment value. (Tom Swifties, in case you missed out on them, are intentionally goofy double-whammy statements like “We just struck oil!” Tom gushed.)

Lucky for me—and lucky for you, too, if you also revel in the pleasure that results from encounters with foibled language—redundancies are everywhere.

If this list’s organizational scheme—alphabetical order within parts-of-speech groupings dotted with blatantly unalphabetical thematic or aurally pleasing subgroupings—strikes you as inconsistent, you’re right. When you notice apparent arbitrarinesses or missed opportunities in the arrangement of this list, look for an underlying reason. I mean, look for a reason. I’m not saying that I always had a reason, but hey, why not make a game of it? May your search for meaning, here as in your life, be its own reward.

Think of this list as a panoplous poem, an epic paean to pleonasm (not to be confused with neoplasm). Take turns savoring these luscious rhetorically tautological dainties—scratch luscious—aloud with friends as you sit around a campfire making s’mores, your voices clickety-clacking across the alliterations as you pass the sticky marshmallows. The marshmallows.

Adjective Phrases

  • 100% right
  • absolutely certain; absolutely essential; absolutely full; absolutely guaranteed; absolutely needed
  • actively involved
  • all inclusive
  • arranged vertically not side by side
  • awful bad
  • bald-headed
  • bare naked
  • best ever; first ever
  • blue in color; few in number; long in duration; nubbly in texture; round in shape; slovenly in appearance; short in height; slow in speed; small in size; tall in stature
  • boiling hot; freezing cold
  • booked solid
  • completely alike; completely filled; completely finished; completely necessary
  • crimson red
  • crystal clear
  • curiously inquisitive
  • deeply rooted
  • diametrically opposed
  • entirely dedicated
  • exact same; same exact; same identical
  • filled to capacity
  • hot and spicy
  • immortalized forever
  • incredible to believe; visible to the eye; warm to the touch
  • long-term rather than short-term; proactive rather than reactive; just one instead of two
  • morally wrong
  • most optimal
  • mutually beneficial for all involved
  • overly paranoid
  • rock solid
  • single greatest
  • singularly focused
  • sufficient enough
  • too extreme
  • totally severed; totally sure
  • up-and-coming young
  • velvety smooth
  • whole entire

Noun Phrases

  • academic scholar
  • ACT test; ATM machine; automatic ATM machine; BFF 4 evah; GOP party; GRE exam; HIV virus; ISBN number; JCR repository; KFC chicken; LCD display; PCR reaction; PIN number; RAM memory; RAS syndrome (redundant-acronym-syndrome syndrome); UPC code; VIN number
  • actual experience; actual fact
  • added bonus
  • advance notice; advance planning; advance preview; advance reservations; advance scout; advance warning
  • advisory recommendation
  • affluent rich
  • agreed-on standards
  • all-time favorite; all-time record
  • alternative choice
  • annual anniversary; ten-year anniversary
  • anonymous stranger
  • armed gunman
  • artificial prosthesis
  • autobiography of her own life; biography of his life
  • baby calf
  • backup copy
  • bad trouble
  • balsa wood
  • basic basics; basic essentials; basic fundamentals; basic necessities
  • big kahuna
  • black darkness; dark night
  • blowing wind
  • boat marina
  • bouquet of flowers
  • brief moment; brief respite; brief summary
  • broad overview; broad range; broad spectrum
  • bunny rabbit
  • burning fire
  • cacophony of sound
  • cameo appearance
  • careful scrutiny
  • cash money
  • challah bread; chicken coq au vin; chili peppers; chili con carne with meat; clam chowder soup; minestrone soup; soup du jour of the day; pie à la mode with ice cream; pizza pie; shrimp scampi; tuna fish; with au jus; with au jus sauce
  • classic tradition
  • clear lines of communication
  • close proximity; close scrutiny
  • closed fist
  • coat lapels
  • coherent strategy
  • colorful palette
  • complete monopoly
  • component parts
  • concerted effort; intentional effort
  • concrete example
  • conscious choice
  • consensus of opinion
  • convicted felon
  • core essence
  • crisis situation; emergency situation
  • current incumbent; current trend; current-state baseline
  • definite decision
  • desirable benefits
  • direct confrontation
  • diverse characteristics
  • early pioneer
  • elderly senior citizens
  • empty blank
  • end result
  • English language
  • entire planet
  • equal halves
  • established norms
  • ethical obligation
  • eventual plan; proposed plan; forward planning
  • evil villain
  • exception to the rule
  • exciting climax
  • experiential travel experiences
  • extreme hazard
  • face mask
  • false illusion; false pretense
  • famous celebrities
  • fast speed
  • favorable approval
  • fellow classmate; fellow colleague; fellow peers
  • final conclusion; final ending; final outcome; final ultimatum
  • fine mensch of a person
  • firm believer
  • first priority; relative priority; top priority
  • foreign imports
  • seasoned veteran
  • foundational starting point
  • free gift
  • friend of mine
  • frozen ice; frozen tundra
  • fruit-tree orchard
  • full satisfaction
  • future forecast; future plans; future goals; future recurrence; expectation for the future; inevitable wave of the future; recommendations for the future; vision of the future
  • general consensus; general public
  • giant thrill
  • glowing embers
  • golden opportunity
  • good cheer; good rapport; good sportsmanship
  • good, hard look
  • grand total; sum total
  • great good fortune
  • green grass; blue sky; white snow
  • guiding principles
  • gut feeling; visceral feeling
  • hand gestures
  • hands-on demonstration
  • handy hacks; handy tips
  • harmful injuries
  • head honcho
  • helpful hints
  • hierarchical classification scheme comprising categories and subcategories
  • high-level roadmap
  • hollow tube
  • huge chasm
  • hunting camouflage
  • hushed silence
  • hybrid of the two
  • idea in one’s head; thought in one’s head; mind meld of both our heads; doubt in my mind; suggestions that come to mind
  • illustrated drawing
  • implicit implication
  • important milestones
  • income coming in
  • inferior underling
  • inner courage
  • innovative new idea
  • invited guests
  • jet plane
  • joint collaboration
  • key stakeholders
  • knowledgeable expert
  • latex rubber
  • leading authority
  • little baby; little cat nap
  • live studio audience; live witness
  • local residents
  • long dreadlocks
  • loud roar
  • lucky winner
  • main focus; primary focus; central focus
  • major breakthrough
  • mass exodus; mass consumer market
  • meaningful relationship
  • mental attitude; mental mindset; mental telepathy
  • meticulous attention to detail
  • minor quibble
  • modern citizens of today
  • moue expression
  • mutual advantage of both; mutual cooperation; mutual interdependence; mutual respect for each other
  • nape of the neck; palm of the hand; sole of the foot
  • native habitat
  • natural instinct; natural tendency
  • new beginning; new change; new construction; new innovation; new invention; new news; new recruit; new wave
  • nostalgia for the past
  • number-one leader
  • official regulations
  • old adage; old classic; old custom; old proverb; old legacy; old cliché; tired cliché
  • open trench
  • oral conversation
  • overall big picture
  • pair of twins
  • paramount importance
  • passing fad
  • past experience; past history; past memory; past record; past tradition
  • personal friend; personal favorite; for me personally; I personally
  • pivotal turning point
  • poisonous venom
  • polar opposites; exact opposite
  • positive identification
  • PR evangelist
  • prearranged appointment; predefined terms; preestablished rules; preplanned activity; prerecorded music
  • precise moment
  • predictive guess
  • previous experience; previous history
  • private industry
  • proactive support
  • proven process; proven track record
  • quarterback sack
  • quick two-minute survey; quick briefing
  • rapt attention
  • record of errors recorded
  • regular routine
  • representative example
  • required requirements
  • root cause
  • running motif
  • safe haven; safe sanctuary; safe sandbox (in technology)
  • sand dune
  • sequence in time
  • serious crisis; serious danger
  • several different kinds; two different bridges; 500 million different people; six separate buildings
  • sharp point
  • short hop; short summary; short recap
  • single unit
  • small details; small footnote; small handful
  • sneak peek
  • solid evidence; solid foundation
  • solitary hermit
  • specific areas; specific details; specific products
  • specified specifications
  • state of confusion
  • stated mission
  • sticky marshmallows
  • strict limit
  • strong reputation; reputation in the community
  • stuffed cabbage rolls
  • such a shame
  • sudden explosion; sudden impulse
  • superfluous words that add no value
  • synonyms that convey the same meaning
  • tangential rabbit hole
  • tangible work experience
  • target objectives
  • telltale sign
  • temper tantrum
  • temporary reprieve
  • test score on the exam
  • the La Brea Tar Pits (the the tar tar pits)
  • therapeutic treatment
  • three-way love triangle
  • timpani drums
  • top three most important criteria
  • top trumps (British)
  • total certainty; total opposite
  • trained technician
  • traveling gypsies
  • treasure trove; rich trove
  • true fact; hard fact; cold fact
  • two halves
  • two-way conversation
  • ultimate goal
  • unacceptable racial slurs
  • undergraduate student
  • underground subway
  • underlying reason
  • unexpected surprise
  • unintentional mistake
  • unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
  • universal panacea
  • unfilled vacancy
  • unfriendly smirk
  • unmarried bachelor
  • unsolved mystery
  • uphill climb
  • usual custom
  • vast sweep
  • venerable old edifices
  • vernacular of ordinary people
  • vista to look out upon
  • visual diagram; visual image
  • vocabulary of terms
  • wall mural
  • weather conditions
  • wide range
  • widow woman
  • win-win situation for both sides

Verb Phrases

  • actively open doors to opportunity; actively participate; actively use
  • add an additional; add a new; add more
  • advance forward
  • aid and abet; cease and desist; pick and choose
  • allow you to be able to
  • always include; always remember; never forget
  • anticipate what will happen in the future; predict future behavior
  • are currently
  • ascend up; connect up; elevate up; heat up; hoist up; hurry up; lift up; open up; partner up; raise up; rise up
  • ask the question
  • assemble together; associate together; attach together; blend together; collaborate together; combine together; confer together; connect together; cooperate together; fuse together; gather together; gel together; join together; integrate together; meet together; merge together; mingle together; mix together; pool together; share together; splice together
  • begin to proceed
  • belabor too much; encroach too much; overthink too much
  • best optimize
  • breathe in and out; gasp for breath
  • bridge between; span across
  • bring a smile to your face
  • change over time; improve over time; increase over time; learn over time; remain relevant over time
  • choose as one of his picks; consciously choose
  • circle around; circulate around
  • classify into groups
  • collaborate with others
  • communicate with each other; compete with each other; equal to each other; integrate with each other; interact with each other; interdependent on each other; meet with each other; separate apart from each other
  • commute back and forth; vacillate back and forth
  • completely annihilate; completely destroy; completely eliminate; completely engulf; completely eradicate; completely fill; completely surround
  • continue with the ongoing analysis; continue on
  • cooperatively conduct
  • copy and paste from one place to another
  • could possibly; can’t possibly
  • count the number of
  • cream thoroughly
  • customize for each person; personalize for various audiences
  • decimate a percentage of
  • delete out
  • depreciate in value
  • descend down; dwindle down; fall down; kneel down; write down; pouring down rain
  • deviate away from
  • did before; did earlier; had done previously
  • disappear from sight
  • drone on endlessly
  • earned their stripes on the way up
  • effectively help
  • eliminate altogether
  • enter into; penetrate into; input into; output out of
  • Enter, Superman, to the rescue.
  • entirely remove
  • estimate at roughly
  • evolve over time
  • experience firsthand
  • extend an invitation
  • extradite back; refer back; reflect back; regress back; remember back; reply back; retreat back; return back; revert back
  • firmly believe; firmly stand behind
  • first began; first conceived; first started
  • fly through the air
  • focus only on
  • follow after
  • frequented on a regular basis
  • go back and reread
  • got up after going down
  • grasped with her hands
  • grow greater; grow in size
  • implement tactically
  • in the process of doing
  • includes industry giants such as
  • indict on a charge
  • introduce a new; introduce for the first time
  • invent something new; create a new form
  • keep your eyes focused on; see with one’s eyes
  • kill dead
  • lag behind
  • lead forward; going forward; moving forward we will
  • learn something you didn’t know
  • look ahead to the future; look back to the past; loom in the near future
  • maintain constantly
  • make perfect sense
  • meander all over the place
  • merge into one
  • mix and match any way you like
  • originally created
  • overexaggerate
  • pause for a moment
  • perceive a noticeable impact
  • physically occupy
  • plan ahead; proceed ahead
  • please RSVP
  • position for future growth
  • postpone until later
  • preboard; predefine; preestablish; preheat; prerecord; pretest
  • prepare ahead of time; prepare the future enterprise
  • prioritize in order of importance
  • proactively anticipate; proactively schedule; proactively solve problems before they occur
  • protest against
  • raining outside
  • recur again; redo again; repeat again; rethink again; review again
  • reelect for another term
  • savor slowly
  • say explicitly
  • scrutinize in detail
  • search inside a pocket
  • Select the file—don’t open it, just select it.
  • self-analyze yourself; self-diagnose themselves; self-publish their own material
  • set clear expectations
  • share in common; share the same
  • skip over
  • slip quietly
  • spell out in detail
  • start to do
  • still continues; still persists; still remains
  • successfully authenticate; successfully follow
  • surround on all sides
  • take this, for example
  • think to oneself; in my head I’m thinking; picture this in your head
  • tinker around
  • translate into another language
  • ultimately conclude
  • warn in advance; plan in advance; preview in advance; reserve in advance; schedule in advance
  • will do later
  • win a victory
  • wince in pain
  • winnow down
  • work diligently

Adverb Phrases, Odds, and Ends

  • 6 a.m. in the morning; 10 p.m. in the evening; twelve noon; twelve midnight
  • all of the apples; off of the couch; outside of the circle
  • always and forever
  • and etc.; also too; in addition you can also
  • any and all; each and every; none at all
  • at an earlier time; at a later time; earlier this year; later this week; at a time when; since the time when; period of time; point in time; time period; period of a few decades; present time
  • at least quarterly if not more often
  • copyright © 2015
  • down under; down below
  • during the course of
  • far other end of the scale
  • first and foremost; first of all
  • for some unknown reason
  • for your FYI
  • From birth, he had an adventuresome spirit as part of his DNA.
  • from the top down
  • from whence
  • globally around the world
  • having said that; that being said
  • I for one
  • increasingly more and more
  • initially from the beginning
  • in my opinion
  • in this day and age
  • in which we live in; of which you are one of
  • just simply
  • manually by hand
  • many theories abound
  • more not less
  • most definitely
  • never before
  • no longer any more
  • now pending
  • number #5
  • on April 1
  • outside in the yard
  • previously noted above; subsequently described below
  • several tens of millions
  • soon in the near future; sooner rather than later
  • TBD for now
  • the reason why; the reason is because; the cause was due to
  • throughout the entire; across the entire
  • two (2)
  • up to the ceiling
  • whether or not

I know, I could have stopped after a few representative examples—I mean, after a few examples. If I had, though, think of the smiles you would have missed. Besides, you’ve just sharpened your eye. The more you spot redundancies, the more you spot redundancies. And that’s no redundancy. But then, that goes without saying.

Sources

This post first appeared in my TechWhirl column, “Word Wise,” October 16, 2013.

[1] Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 701.

[2] Garner, p. 857.

[3] Mark Nichol, “50 Redundant Phrases to Avoid,” Daily Writing Tips blog, 2011, http://www.dailywritingtips.com/50-redundant-phrases-to-avoid.

[4] Richard Nordquist, “200 Common Redundancies,” About.com Grammar & Composition, [date unknown], http://grammar.about.com/od/words/a/redundancies.htm.

[5] Mignon Fogarty, “Are You Annoyingly Redundant?” Grammar Girl blog, August 7, 2009, http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/are-you-annoyingly-redundant.

[6] Fogarty, “Excessive Redundant Redundancies,” Grammar Girl blog, October 8, 2006, http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/excessive-redundant-redundancies.

[7] Garner, pp. 700-701.

[8] “Redundant Redundancies” [author and date unknown], Brain Candy, http://www.corsinet.com/braincandy/twice.html.

[9] The idea of posting individual list items to social media came from Listly.com founder Nick Kellet. The title for those postings—”Today’s redundancy of the day”—came from my high-school classmate and fellow wordplay lover Anne Willis Reed.

15 thoughts on “The Annals of Redundancy Annals

  1. Thanks, Marcia. As I read through this — I mean, as I read this — I thought to myself — no, I just thought — “This is really awesome!” Um, I mean, awesome. Period.

    • Larry, Thanks for the smile. How could any other line of work could touch the rewards of writing? Well, other than money…

    • Melissa, In case you get pinged when I reply to your comment, please email me your last name. I would like to acknowledge you in the book that I’m basing on this blog post. My address: marcia_r_johnstonATmeDOTcom.

  2. I’ve got to admit-I read this whole entire post with a smile stretched across my face from one side to the other of my grinning face.

    But really, in all seriousness, for real

    I did.

    • David, Your note brings me a smile. I keep returning to this post myself, adding to it regularly as I encounter redundant phrases. I sense a kindred spirit in you. In fact, I just read your blog post “On Editing – Death to Weak Verbs” and commented there. I don’t know if the comment took (it disappeared when I clicked the button), but I trust that it will find its way.

  3. Is big kahuna really a redundant phrase? According to Wikipedia, “Kahuna is a Hawaiian word, defined in Pukui & Elbert (1986) as a “priest, sorcerer, magician, wizard, minister, expert in any profession”.

    Can’t you have multiple kahunas (kahunae?) and a “big” kahuna running the show?

    • Alex, Your question serves as a reminder to consider the context in any writing decision. Most contexts I can imagine for the term “kahuna” would not require the “big.” Even if you had a roomful of kahunae and you wanted the big one to stand up, it seems likely, given the common use of the term, that they would all understand you if you said, “Who’s the kahuna here?” If everybody stood up, then I’d give in and add “big.”

      In honor of your thought-provoking question, I hereby declare that every so-called redundant phrase on my list may, at times, have a defensible use. I just ask that writers put their phrases to the Kahuna Test.

      • Thank you for this. I love the list. And I really appreciated the clarification. I thought of a few examples where one of the listed phrases would be preferable than a shortened version. You’re “declaration” is most appreciated!

  4. I was absolutely astounded by your list of repetitive redundancies and read it all the way to the very end, smiling happily as I completely soaked up every last word, or to put it another way, I liked your list and read it all.

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