The Language Perfectionist: Redundancies Repeated, Yet Again

At a conference I attended recently, a speaker referred to “the little homunculus in the brain.” The word homunculus is Latin for “little man,” so the word little is redundant.

I’ve written about redundancies several times in this column. But the error is so common that another report is probably not, er… redundant. Here are a few examples I found recently in newspapers and magazines:

  • “These office workers did not want their children regressing back to the working class….” (The word regress contains re-, meaning back.)
  • “[Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is] set to expand throughout the entire Lincoln Center complex when it begins its stay there on Sept. 9.” (Because throughout implies entire, the latter word should be deleted.)
  • Preceding a list of new iPhone features: “Positive Improvements.” (Is there any other kind?)
  • “We were struggling with how to do this, since our work is mostly 95 percent observational….” (No comment necessary!)

And finally, this response in an advice column for writers, ironically enough: “While you’re not excited about the italic style… it is the most accepted way to treat a character’s internal thoughts.” (Are there external thoughts?)

[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 that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]