On National Public Radio recently, a newscaster reporting on the Middle East conflict said that Gaza had been “bisected in two.” Of course, the word bisected means divided into two parts, so the phrase is redundant.
In an article in the interior design section of a respected newspaper, a report on mirrors included this phrase: “With their capacity to reflect back nearly all incident light… .” The back is unnecessary because it’s contained in the definition of reflect.
I used to expect journalists to display a minimal level of literacy, but I’m no longer surprised by the egregious errors I routinely spot. In an earlier column, I discussed redundancies. The problem is obviously still with us, so here’s another take on the subject.
One reason this error is committed so frequently is that it isn’t always obvious that a particular combination of words is repetitive. Another reason is that certain phrases have become cliches, and because of their familiarity they “seem right.”
The problem can be solved by deleting the redundant element, which is most often an adjective. If any of the following appear okay to you, take a second look.
• actual fact
• close proximity
• completely surrounded
• confer together
• consensus of opinion
• convicted felon
• deliberate lie
• disappear from view
• necessary prerequisite
• new innovation
• new recruit
• merge together
I borrowed some of the above examples from a clever little book: Armed Gunmen, True Facts, and Other Ridiculous Nonsense, by Richard Kallan. Though it’s primarily intended for amusement, the hundreds of redundancies cited also serve an educational purpose. If certain people make you “shriek loudly” by committing this type of mistake, a gift of this book “might possibly” help raise their “mental awareness” of their habit.[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book recently published by AWAI that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]