Redundant Expressions and How to Avoid Them
  • 3-minute read
  • 5th December 2018

Redundant Expressions and How to Avoid Them

Do you ever get the feeling you’re repeating yourself? It’s certainly a common problem in writing, especially when it comes to redundant expressions. But what are redundancies? Why are they a problem? And how can you avoid them in your written work? Let us explain.

What Are Redundant Expressions?

Redundant expressions are phrases made up of two or more words that repeat the same idea. A good example is “twelve midnight,” since “midnight” is always at 12am. We can therefore drop “twelve” without losing any meaning. Other redundant expressions include:

  • Added bonus
  • Cease and desist
  • Consensus of opinion
  • Each and every
  • End result
  • Free gift
  • New innovations
  • Null and void
  • Past history
  • Plan ahead
  • Regular routine
  • Rough estimation
  • Sum total
  • Unexpected surprise

Some of these redundancies can be used for emphasis. Saying “null and void,” for example, sounds stronger than “null” or “void” alone. Others may have uses in specific contexts (e.g., “cease and desist” is a common phrase in legal contexts, with the doubling up a leftover from a time when many legal phrases included words from two or more languages to ensure understanding).

Usually, though, redundant expressions are just wordiness. And since wordy writing is harder to read, you will want to avoid redundancies in your written work.

How to Avoid Redundant Expressions

What, then, should one do upon spotting a redundant expression? The simplest answer is to remove the unnecessary word or words. Depending on the redundant expression used, you may even have a choice of which term to keep. “Cease” and “desist,” for example, are interchangeable:

Will you cease and desist that infernal racket! Redundant

Will you cease that infernal racket!

Will you desist that infernal racket!

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But most of the time you will need to be careful about which term you remove. The key is that most redundancies contain a modifying term (i.e., an adjective or an adverb). For instance:

We should plan ahead for Christmas. – Redundant

Here, we see the verb “plan” being modified with the adverb “ahead.” But since planning involves thinking ahead by definition, the word “ahead” is redundant. By comparison, if we cut “plan,” we would end up with an adverb without a verb to modify, which is ungrammatical:

We should ahead for Christmas.

We should plan for Christmas.

In cases like this, then, you should always remove the modifying term, not the term being modified. And if you’d ever like a little extra help with your writing, don’t forget to get it proofread by the experts!

Comments (8)
Oliver Ngwuli
18th November 2019 at 21:47
This is very clear to me now
Sean
3rd February 2021 at 04:22
Cease and desist is not a redundant phrase. Cease means to stop doing something already begun. Desist means to refrain from something not yet begun.
    Proofed
    3rd February 2021 at 09:17
    In common parlance, both terms mean "stop," so in a case like the one in our example it is a redundancy, although there are some cases where "cease and desist" can legitimately mean "stop and refrain from restarting" (e.g., a cease and desist letter).
      cora
      15th April 2022 at 02:52
      Cease and desist is a common term for lawyers when sending out a letter before a lawsuit is filed. So if it redundant to use it, why is it used?
      Proofed
      15th April 2022 at 10:01
      Hi, Cora. We tried to answer this in the comment you're replying to, but we'll expand on the point here if it helps: i.e., in the context of a "cease and desist" letter, the phrase is fine because it has a specific technical meaning in legal circles (it is something known as a legal doublet, where the redundancy is a result of the phrase originally incorporating two languages); but if you use it in any other context, such as the example given in the post, it is redundant because "cease" and "desist" both mean "stop."
George West
23rd June 2021 at 20:59
From Economist magazine “natural burial site”. Sounds redundant? June 12th page 51.
    Proofed
    24th June 2021 at 09:03
    Hi, George. There isn't an obvious redundancy there, but perhaps it requires context?
Alusine Koroma
1st July 2021 at 14:14
Thank you for providing the correct material I asked for

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