​​Grammar Tips: Tautology
  • 4-minute read
  • 5th November 2022

​​Grammar Tips: Tautology

Tautology is the needless repetition of a word, phrase, or idea. The word, first used in 1566, comes from the ancient Latin and Greek word “tautologia,” meaning the saying of the same thing twice.

Here are some common examples of tautology in everyday language:

PIN number

PIN means “personal identification number,” so saying “number” again is unnecessary.

GPS system

GPS means “global positioning system,” so you don’t need to add the word “system.”

New innovation

By definition, an innovation is new, so using the two words together is needless repetition.

Over-exaggerate

Exaggerate means to overstate; therefore, “over-exaggerate” is redundant.

Examples of Tautology in Sentences

See if you can spot the tautology in this sentence:

He bought a watch for $400 dollars.

If you said that using both “$” and “dollars” is redundant, you’re correct! Here’s how we can fix this mistake:

He bought a watch for 400 dollars.
He bought a watch for $400.

Here’s another example:

I woke up at 5 am in the morning, so I’m exhausted.

Using “am” and “morning” together is unnecessary because they indicate the same time of day. Here are two ways to rewrite this sentence:

I woke up at 5 am, so I’m exhausted.
I woke up at 5 this morning, so I’m exhausted.

Let’s look at one more example:

I personally made this gift for you.

If you said that using both “I” and “personally” is redundant, you’re right! Let’s see how to correct this:

I made this gift for you.

Common Examples of Tautology in Academic Writing

It’s best to avoid tautology in academic writing. Needless repetition will make your writing wordy, and your readers may struggle to identify your main idea.

Here’s an example of tautology in academic writing:

In addition, research also states that while coffee is increasing in popularity, tea is still the most popular hot beverage in the UK.

Using “in addition” or “additionally” with “also” is a common mistake. These words and phrases have the same meaning, so they should not be used in the same sentence.

We can correct this sentence in two ways:

In addition, research states that while coffee is increasing in popularity, tea is still the most popular hot beverage in the UK.
Research also states that while coffee is increasing in popularity, tea is still the most popular hot beverage in the UK.

Let’s look at the next example:

They also implemented a new technique to measure their students’ learning outcomes as well.

As in the above example, using “also” and “as well” in the same sentence is redundant because they have the same meaning. This is true for any combination of “too,” “as well,” “also,” “in addition,” and “additionally.”

Here’s how we can fix this mistake:

They also implemented a new technique to measure their students’ learning outcomes.

Here’s another common mistake that can clutter up your academic writing:

Smith and Jones built their own deep learning machine to test their theory.

If you noticed that the phrase “their own” is redundant, you’re correct. This is also true for “his own” or “her own.” In this case, since the authors’ names are listed, there is no need to use a possessive pronoun to indicate whose deep learning machine it is.

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Smith and Jones built a deep learning machine to test their theory.

The next example shows a mistake often seen in reflective writing:

In my opinion, I think Beowulf is an epic poem that everyone should read.

“In my opinion” and “I think” have the same meaning. Instead, we can write one of the following:

In my opinion, Beowulf is an epic poem that everyone should read.
I think Beowulf is an epic poem that everyone should read.

Here’s one more example of tautology in academic writing:

The result of these geological changes is that, although the internal structure of the Tian-shan region is highly mountainous, its external appearance, or in other words, its geographical aspect, is that of a plateau.

In this example, there is a signal phrase indicating the tautology: “in other words.” This phrase is difficult to use effectively and generally leads to needless repetition. There is no need to say both “external appearance” and “geographical aspect” here because they have similar meanings.

Let’s fix this statement to remove the tautology:

The result of these geological changes is that, although the internal structure of the Tian-shan region is highly mountainous, its external appearance is that of a plateau.

When Is Tautology Appropriate in Writing?

As a literary device, tautology can be used in writing to emphasize or clarify a point.

Here are some famous examples:

“To be or not to be, that is the question.”

– William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1


Here, it’s repetitive to say “that is the question” right after asking the question.

“While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.”

– Edgar Allen Poe, The Raven

In this example, “tapping” and “gently rapping” have the same meaning, and “rapping” is repeated.


As we’ve just seen, tautology can be used intentionally in writing, but it’s still important to avoid being repetitive or redundant. If you’re struggling with repetition or wordiness in your writing, we’ll proofread your first 500 words for free!

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