The Secret of Pleonasms

Double Trouble

Double Trouble

Redundancy is cute on your grandsons in “Double Trouble” shirts at the zoo; they don’t have a proper place in professional writing, especially if an editor or publisher is pressuring you to shave 50 words (note I did not say shave off). My oft-quoted mom would chastise me when I’d say exact same. She told me it was redundant. I asked her, “What’s redundant mean?”

Also known as “pleonasms,” redundant phrases abound. A gunman is scary enough but an armed gunman is really scary! You may feel you are absolutely necessary or absolutely essential; I would say you are necessary or essential and leave it at that. Whether you are bitten by a snake spurting poisonous venom or venom, you’re going to be just as dead. Before you die, you may turn purple in color. There is one pleonasm I appreciate and support: very pregnant. Any woman who has experienced the last days of her ninth month can attest that very pregnant is very necessary!

Linda J. Beam, founder, editor, and instructor of Write to the Point! says, “Eliminating redundancies is one of the easiest ways to improve your writing. It means getting rid of obvious duplications like advance planning, descend downward, or endorse on the back. Carefully pruning your words in this way will make your writing less cumbersome, which will make it flow more smoothly.”

In acronyms, we repeat frequently. Consider the PIN number or the ATM machine. Your kids may be struggling with the SAT test. Perhaps your neighbor is talking to you over the fence about the NATO organization. Friends who served in Vietnam talk about the DMZ zone. The checker at the market is looking for the UPC code. The italicized words are not necessary as they are part of the acronym.

If you like this post, I ask that you RSVP. I will not ask you to please RSVP.

“It’s déjà vu all over again.” – Yogi Berra

Sources – Write to the Point!, Fun with Words, Pleonasms,



Filed under Words & Vocabulary

10 responses to “The Secret of Pleonasms

  1. Amity

    Love it, Karen. So true, so true.

  2. Tom Claffey

    Good stuff, Karen!


  3. Paul Billyk

    I am so happily pleased that you yourself brought this subject to my own attention.

  4. Karen, I love this post. You provide some excellent examples-people almost say “number,” “test,” “organization,” zone,” and “code” at they say PIN, SAT, NATO, DMZ and UPC. And I finally fully understand why my husband always has liked the Yogi Berra line. “It’s dejavu all over again.”

  5. Thank you Barbara! I enjoyed writing it. “Pleonasms” sounds like something you need a prescription for, huh? 🙂

  6. Check out Copyblogger’s recent post about this subject! I’m in the company of blog greatness!

  7. Pingback: These homophones give me such a headache | Karen S. Elliott's Blog

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