• 3-minute read
  • 21st June 2018

Redundant Expressions (And How to Fix Them)

Concision is important for clarity, and one way to achieve this is removing unnecessary words from your writing. The trick is knowing which words can be cut! The first things to look for in this respect are redundant expressions. But what does this mean? And how do you correct them?

What Are Redundant Expressions?

A redundant expression is made up of two or more words that repeat the same idea. For example, the phrase ‘twelve noon’ is redundant because noon is always at 12pm! As a result, saying ‘twelve noon’ is the same as saying ‘noon’ by itself. Other examples include:

  • Cease and desist
  • Each and every
  • End result
  • Free gift
  • Future plans
  • Join together
  • Null and void
  • Past memories
  • Personal opinion
  • Regular routine
  • Rough estimation
  • Sum total
  • Surrounded on all sides
  • Unexpected surprise

Not all redundancies are wrong, of course. Some 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 Fix Redundant Expressions

The answer here is quite simple in theory: remove the offending term or terms. However, you need to cut the right words, which can be difficult if you’re not confident about what each one means.

In some cases, it doesn’t really matter. The following, for instance, contains the redundant expression ‘each and every’:

I have spoken to each and every person here.

But we can cut either ‘each’ or ‘every’ and it will mean the same thing:

I have spoken to each person here.

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I have spoken to every person here.

In other cases, however, removing the wrong term will make your sentence ungrammatical. One tip here is to keep the term being modified, as this will usually be essential to the sentence. For example:

Everyone at the conference received a free gift.

Here, ‘free gift’ is a redundant expression (a gift has to be given freely for it to be a gift). But since the noun ‘gift’ is the object of this sentence, removing it would be ungrammatical. ‘Free’, meanwhile, is merely an adjective (i.e. a word that modifies a noun). Thus, the modifier has to go:

Everyone at the conference received a free.

Everyone at the conference received a gift.

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 (6)
27th November 2018 at 06:38
Fix this one. This is an unexpected suprise!
    27th November 2018 at 10:56
    Hi, Seth. As mentioned in the post, the simplest option is often to remove the modifier. That would leave you with 'This is a surprise!' Alternatively, you could say 'This is unexpected!', which means the same thing (in this case, 'unexpected' modifies 'this').
Zara Mahi
28th November 2019 at 12:30
Sir will this still a redundant expression if we write it as following?? 'surrounded one side'
    28th November 2019 at 13:57
    Hi, Zara. Assuming you mean 'surrounded [on] one side', I'm afraid it wouldn't make sense: to be surrounded is to be enclosed on all sides (hence 'surrounded on all sides' being a redundant expression). If something is only on one side, it is not surrounding anything.
Zara Maheer
28th November 2019 at 12:33
Sir can't we use NULL AND VOID It is also used as idiom or phrase as well ?????
    28th November 2019 at 13:53
    Hi, Zara. You can use the phrase 'null and void' if you want (e.g. using the repetition for emphasis), but using both terms doesn't add anything meaningful to a sentence. The point we're making here is that avoiding phrases like this can help make your writing clearer and more concise. Hope that helps!

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