The Sunny Lifestyle of a Home Journalist

Friday, September 11, 2015

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Free Gifts, Burning Fires & Bad Trouble



Last week, I bought the book You Can Say That Again: 750 Redundant Phrases to Think Twice About on kindle and finished it two days later. It was super eye opening, and I’m partly mad I read it because now I look out for repeated words in everything I read or write (which can get annoying).


As an example, think of the phrases close at hand, visible to the eye, inner feelings and first of all. Is it really necessary to say that something is at hand if you already said that it’s close? Why do you need to say both? But people might wonder whether it was visible to the eye or visible to the ear, so you’d better clarify. What’s first of all must be the very first or it would be second, so why emphasize the first-ness? Oh I know, you had an inner feeling... as opposed to the outer feeling you ignored.


Here are some others you may find yourself guilty of using from time to time:
  • free gifts (Aren't all gifts free?)
  • burning fire (What fire isn't burning?)
  • whole entire (Whole is always entire and entire is always whole.)
  • thought in mind/suggestion in mind/doubt in my mind (Where else would the thought or doubt have been?) 
  • bring a smile to your face (Next time, maybe it’ll bring a smile to your arm.) 
  • raining outside (Or does your roof have a leak?)

Of course there are exceptions to using these types of phrases, such as when emphasis is needed or when your roof really does have a leak. But it’s pretty crazy how these redundant phrases have crept into everyday American speech and seemingly taken over!


Recently, as a journalist, I’ve been focusing on condensing. This is a useful tactic, especially when dealing with tight word counts. Plus, it’s important in everyday writing. Who wants to read a six paragraph email when the point could have been made with only two? Taking out these repetitive phrases is a great way to cut down words, so the trick is just becoming more cognizant of them. 


“In the great stew of language, words with similar meanings stick together. When we dip into the pot, we often scoop out more than we need,” says Marcia Riefer Johnston, also the author of Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs.


I think the world is adopting that minimalist attitude lately, not only in writing, but in d├ęcor, fashion, photography, organization and other areas. With all of life’s hectic clutter, simplicity is the new fad, and I kinda like it. But it's especially important in writing.


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