The Language Perfectionist: Still More Repetitive Redundancies

On National Public Radio recently, I heard the words “news journalists.” This is a quintessential redundancy. My hunch is that the commentator’s intended meaning was “print journalists,” in contrast to those who work in broadcasting or online.

Here are a few more redundant expressions I encountered recently in the pages of newspapers and online:

  • “Does it put a negative stigma on a company? I think the answer is definitely.”

A stigma, meaning a mark of disgrace, is always negative.

  • “Snopes is one of a small handful of sites in the fact-checking business.”

The word handful is a metaphor for something small.

  • “In it [a video game,] you can choose to control either the resistance or the machines and your mission is to completely annihilate your enemy.”

The word annihilation means total destruction, so the phrase “completely annihilate” might be regarded as… overkill.

  • “Plenty of other examples abound.”

The words plenty and abound both imply a large number.

  • “One day, acting on a sudden impulse, I bought a new shirt.”

An impulse is by definition sudden.

Redundant phrases such as these (and hundreds of others) should be avoided because they add more words than are necessary, because they’re often cliches, and because they make the writer look lazy or illiterate. Expunge them from your writing with “meticulous care”!

[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.