“The state of being not or no longer needed or useful” (dictionary.com)
I don’t think I’d ever heard of this word in relation to book reading/editing prior to the idea of ‘editing for a living’ popped into my head. But now, whenever I read a story, my eyes… My brain … are on the lookout for redundancy.
Essentially, redundancy is when a word or phrase is used that adds nothing to the story. Think of the last time you read a story and you were at a part that left you screaming (mentally that is) because you wanted the character/narrator to get on with it. You understood what the writer was saying and ready for the next step, the next level, the next scene…. That was more than likely redundancy at play. I recently read a story that had a lot of redundancy; another word that I like to use is fluff. Fluff in a story is extra information that isn’t important to the scene, much less the story. It’s just additional information that the author decided to throw in. Maybe they needed a certain word count? Who knows?! If you ever find yourself skimming a story, perhaps that was redundancy working against you. All in all, this information isn’t needed, and the story would make perfect sense without it.
I remember reading a story a few years ago in which the main character lived in a small town. As she headed down the main street, she noticed, admired, took in the stores that lined either side of the street.
“This one had a blue awning with a picture of a cake on the window, the second one had a green-striped awning with a picture of a lawn mower on the window, the third one had a red awning that was ripped in the corner and held a picture of a fire extinguisher on the window…”
See where I’m going with this? The writer went on and on, and the store descriptions took up several pages. While most (?) readers would like to know specific details in relation to the character and what they’re doing, this seemed a little overwhelming, in my opinion. It’s one thing to provide details, but it’s a whole ‘nother story to create a mini-story about the stores on the main street. Perhaps the author went on a tangent and didn’t realize it? Either way, that would have been the editor’s chance to point this redundancy out to the author and make the story better. I know not everyone can afford an editor, so that’s why I suggest finding at least some beta readers who can help you out. Check out the post at https://www.redpenediting.net/beta-readers-an-authors-hidden-resource/
Beta readers, preferably not friends or family, can be so beneficial to authors. While it’s nice to have friends and family read your stories, don’t expect them not to tell you what you want to hear. That’s why I always suggest finding strangers to read your manuscript.
Either way, I was so sure she would end up going into one of the stores, given all the descriptions. And, I felt that would somehow make up for all the unnecessary information I’d just read. But she never went into any of the stores, and she didn’t interact with anyone that either went in or came out of said stores. 🙁
Anyway, check out these examples.
Let’s start with the simplest form of redundancy.
“She lifted up the window.”
Notice the verb (verbal phrase): lifted up. Lifted: raise to a higher position or level. Up: toward a higher place or position. (Dictionary.com)
See the redundancy? “Lifted” and “up” mean close to the same thing; of course, you would need to figure out which (single) word would make sense in the sentence. In this case, you can leave out “up” and keep “lifted.” It could be written as “she lifted the window.” I’m sure many readers don’t even notice this mistake. I do. Other easy/small examples in this area that oftentimes aren’t needed include “sit/sat
down, stood/stand up, lay/lie down,” etc.
Or what about:
“Could you repeat that again?”
Look at the verb repeat and the adverb again. What does repeat mean? To say something … again. Need I say more?
The following links provide many more examples of words using redundancy:
What about in longer passages?
Imagine reading this simple example:
“He was a young boy, a child in fact. As a four-year-old kid, he was not yet an adult. Because he was a child, he played with other children.”
What do you think the author was trying to tell the reader here? Let’s look at the following words/phrases: young boy, child, four-year-old, kid, child (again), and played with other children. Could this character be a child? No, I don’t think that’s it. 😉 Just joking.
It would have been obvious the character was a child by just stating, “He was a young boy, a child in fact.” Some might wonder why it couldn’t be left as “He was a young boy”? When I think of a young boy, personally, a school-aged child comes to mind, but someone who hasn’t made it too far (as in high school). Perhaps, a child between kindergarten and middle school. Someone who is under preteen age. That’s why I left “a child in fact” included. That’s an easy example. Let’s try this next one.
(The above example was found at https://writingcooperative.com/3-types-of-redundant-writing-and-how-to-avoid-them-1f83ff70064b) You can check the full example out at this link; it’s like a redundancy nightmare.
A medium example:
“The town described the girl as being the most beautiful girl in the world. She had long blonde hair, green eyes, and a heart-shaped face. Everyone noticed her beauty when she came to town.”
That last sentence “Everyone noticed her beauty when she came to town” would be considered redundant: It’s already been stated in the first sentence, so because it’s already been stated, there’s no need to repeat it again.
A hard example:
“John stared at the darkness outside, unsure of the shifting shadows peering at him. A strange blackness glared back, distorting his reflection in the window, leaving him with the feeling of being watched.”
Now take a moment to check over this passage. Does anything stand out? What about the verbs that are used? “Stared, peering, glared, watched.” What do these verbs have in common? They all mean to look at something. Right? Right. The author of the passage was just using a variety of words that essentially mean the same thing. Now that the verbs or actions are known to you, do they not stand out? Now check out the same passage but “cleaned up.”
“John stared at the darkness outside, unsure of the shifting shadows in the corner of his eye. A strange blackness pressed against the windowpane, distorting his reflection and leaving him with the feeling of being watched.”
What’s different? The passage is more direct, more straight to the point. There are a variety of verbs now used, which all mean something different. While not all the verbs were changed, the redundancy is no longer there.
(The above example was found at http://allwritefictionadvice.blogspot.com/2014/02/redundancy-in-fiction-writing.html)
I hope you have found this blog useful. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, jokes, funnies, please feel free to contact me. Thanks for reading!
Thanks for reading!