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.]

Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant for more than 30 years. He may be best known for his headline “Speak Spanish [French, German, etc.] Like a Diplomat!” This familiar series of ads sold spectacular numbers of recorded foreign language lessons for Audio-Forum, generating revenues that total in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process, the ad achieved the status of an industry classic. Don’s work is mentioned in three major college advertising textbooks, and examples of his promotions are cited in the books Million Dollar Mailings (1992) and World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters (1996). In a column in Advertising Age, his name was included in a short list of direct-marketing “superstars.” He has a parallel career as a writer on language and wordplay. His celebration of spoonerisms, Cruel and Unusual Puns (Dell, 1991), received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing. His second book was Acronymania (Dell, 1993). Recently, Don retired from full-time copywriting in order to focus on other interests, including his passion for “recreational linguistics.” He is at work on a new book in that genre. He is a regular contributor to the magazine Word Ways and writes “The Language Perfectionist,” a weekly column on grammar and usage, for Early to Rise. Don is author of The Versatile Freelancer,an e-book from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) that shows copywriters – and almost anyone – how to diversify their careers into consulting, training, critiquing, and speaking.

NEWSLETTER

Get daily articles, deals, and more!

You have successfully subscribed!