When Is It OK to Be Redundant?

Strunk and White wrote in The Elements of the Style to "omit needless words." What makes a word needless, and when is it OK to be redundant? 

Mignon Fogarty
4-minute read
Episode #471

Respect Culture

Dialects and regionalisms can also employ redundancy or wordiness, and fiction writers who want their characters to sound authentic embrace these quirks. For example, a character from Newfoundland may say, “Me, I think we should have lasagna,” and a grocer during the Depression may have insisted on being paid with “cash money.” Business writers, of course, should generally avoid such phrases.

Avoid Simple Redundancies

Finally, we have clichés and simple redundancies that allow us to omit needless words without wringing our hands about exceptions, niceties, or technicalities. The examples below are a small sample of the many types of phrases you can safely prune:

Abbreviations with Repeated Words

ATM machine

HIV virus

please RSVP


Modified Absolutes

very unique

completely dead

exact same


Simply Redundant or Wordy Phrases

close proximity (if you are in the proximity, you are close)

fiction novel (all novels are fiction)

free gift (all gifts should be free)

future plans (if you’re making plans, unless you’re a time traveler, they are for the future)

my personal opinion (all opinions are personal unless otherwise specified)

old adage (all adages are old)

past experience (all experience is in the past)

twelve noon (noon is always at twelve)


A version of this article originally appeared in OfficePro Magazine.

Indian spicy chai tea latte image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.