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Useless Repetitions You Should Avoid in English (II)

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D. This is a continuation from last week. (Click on this link for the first part). It was originally published ...

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

This is a continuation from last week. (Click on this link for the first part). It was originally published in the Sunday Trust of December 8, 2013.

20. Cacophony (of sound). The phrase is a useless repetition because cacophony is by definition a disagreeable mixture of sounds. Since sound is the stuff of cacophony, it’s pleonastic to talk of a “cacophony of sound.”

21.  (Careful) scrutiny. It isn’t a scrutiny if it isn’t careful. A scrutiny is a close, prolonged, intense examination of something.

23. Classify (into groups). The essence of classification is arranging into groups. Your prose will be more elegant if you eliminate “into groups” from the phrase.

24. Collaborate (together). To collaborate is to work together, so saying “collaborate together” is a pointless repetition.  Similar superfluous constructions are “assemble (together),” “combine (together),” “confer (together),” “connect (together),”cooperate (together),”spliced (together),”integrate (together),” “meet together,”gather (together),” “fuse (together),” “mix together,” “meet together,” “join together,” “share (together),” etc.

25. Commute (back and forth). Commuting involves traveling back and forth, so “commute back and forth” is excess linguistic luggage.

26. Compete (with each other). To compete is to engage in a contest with each other. You can’t compete with yourself. Similar expressions to avoid if you want to save space are “integrate (with each other),” “interdependent (on each other),” “meet (with each other),” “mutual respect (for each other),” “equal (to one another),” etc.

27. (Completely) annihilate. Annihilation necessarily involves a complete destruction. If the destruction isn’t total it’s not annihilation. Similar supernumerary expressions are “(completely) destroyed,” “(completely) eliminate,” “(completely) engulfed,” “(completely) filled,” “(completely) surround,” “eradicate (completely),” “eliminate (altogether),” “(entirely) eliminate,” etc. All the verbs in these expressions entail “complete” actions, so “completely” is a useless repetition.

28. (Component) parts. Both words mean the same thing. You can do without one.
29. Consensus (of opinion). A consensus is the concordance of opinions, so “consensus of opinions” is redundant.

30. (Constantly) maintained. “Maintain” already implies constancy. You cannot intermittently or periodically maintain.

31. Could (possibly). “Could” is a modal auxiliary that expresses possibility. That means the words “could” and “possibly” basically perform the same function, making “could possibly” a surplusage, that is, more words than needed to express an idea. Related surplusages are “may possibly” and “might possibly.” 

32. Crisis (situation). A crisis IS a situation. The addition of “situation” to “crisis” is redundant. This is also true of “emergency (situation).”

33. (Current) trend. All trends are current. That is what makes them trends. If they weren’t current, they wouldn’t be trends; they would be passé. A similar, if less frequent, redundancy is “(current) incumbent.”

33. Depreciate (in value). When something depreciates it loses value. “Value” forms the core of the notion of depreciation—and appreciation. So it’s useless repetition to say something has depreciated—or appreciated—“in value.” It is sufficient to say it has depreciated.

34. Descend (down). Just like “ascend up,” “descend down” is needlessly repetitive since “down” is the only direction to which you can descend. Similar tautologies, which are nonetheless idiomatic in the language, are “drop (down),” “dwindle (down),”  “kneel (down),” “(down) south,” “(up) north,” etc.

35. (Desirable) benefits. Benefits are by nature desirable gains. Unless we can talk of “undesirable benefits” (which would be a contradiction in terms), “desirable benefits” is pointless phraseology.

34. (Different) kinds. They wouldn’t be “kinds” if they were not “different.”

35. Disappear (from sight). Where else do you disappear from? Nothingness?

36. During (the course of). This is more words than are necessary to say “on” or “throughout.” It’s similar to “earlier (in time).”

37. (Empty) hole. Is a hole supposed to be full? It’s a hole precisely because it’s empty.  “(Empty) space” belongs in the same class of tautology as “empty hole,” although I think “empty space” is more defensible than “empty hole.”

38. Enclosed (herein). This popular phrase in email and snail-mail correspondence can do without “herein” and retain the same meaning.

39. (End) result. Results never come in the beginning. They always come at the end. Other finalist tautologies (my coinage for redundant expressions to express an ending) are “(final) conclusion,” “(final) end,” “(final) outcome,” “(final) ultimatum,” etc.

40. Estimated at (about). Both “estimate” and “about” express the same meaning: imprecision, incertitude.

42. Evolve (over time). To evolve means to change over time. Evolution is never constant. That’s why the phrase is a pointless repetition.

43. (Exact) same. Both words express the notion of identical properties, yet many people, including me, love to describe things as “exact same."

44. Extradite (back). Extradite means to hand over back to the authorities of another country. Since extradition involves a “back” movement, the phrase can do without “back.” Similar phrases are “revert (back),” “return (back),” “refer (back),” “reflect (back),” “reply (back),” “retreat (back),” etc.

45. (Favorable) approval. Approvals are always favorable. It’s hard to conceive of an unfavorable approval.

46. (Fellow) classmates. A fellow is someone who is a member of one’s class or profession, so the expressions “fellow classmates” and “fellow colleagues” are pointless repetitions.

47. Few (in number). This is a useless repetition because fewness is and can only be about numbers. This tautology is similar to “many (in number),” “blue (in color),” “short (in stature,” “tall (in height),” “I am Muhammad (by name),” etc.

48. Filled (to capacity) or full (to capacity). This is a well-established phrase in conversational English, but it’s pleonastic nonetheless. “To capacity” adds nothing to the phrase.

49. (First) conceived. Nothing precedes conception. It’s always a first activity.

50. Fly (through the air). Where else do you fly through? The ground?

51. (Foreign) imports. Since an import is by definition foreign, the phrase “foreign import” is a waste of words.

52. (Former) graduate. A graduate is a former student. It is logically impossible to be a “former graduate” since you can’t graduate from graduating. A similar pleonasm is “(former) veteran.”

53. (Free) gift. The American advertising industry perpetually promises people “free gifts,” but it isn’t a gift if it isn’t free. I am yet to see a gift that is paid for.

54. (Frozen) ice. Oh, so you want the ice to burn like a “burning ember”? Seriously, since it has to be frozen to be ice, “frozen ice” is superfluous.

55.  (Full) satisfaction. Unless there is “empty satisfaction,” it is unnecessary to talk of full satisfaction since satisfaction is, of necessity, always full.

56.  (Future) plans. Plans by nature belong in the future, not anywhere else—certainly not in the past. A similar surplusage is “(future) recurrence.”

57.  (General) public. The public is always general, never private, so “general public” is a useless repetition.

To be continued

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