Especially for Midterms: On Redundancy

by admin on September 23, 2011

Today I mentioned in class that in the upcoming take-home exam I will look for writing quality as much as substance. When students asked about the strict page limit I intend to impose, I explained that one of the best skills they can pick up from my class is not the ability to memorize historical events but rather to write concisely and effectively. I added that it is almost always possible to say in 4 pages what one has said in 6 or even 8, and that I will not tolerate redundancy of any kind [of any kind being intentionally redundant].

To clarify my point, I bring here Ben Yagoda‘s post on redundancy from the new Chronicle of Higher Education blog on writing, Lingua Franca. I’ve been following Yagoda’s posts for some time (see my previous on a writer’s deadly sins). Here he offers a lesson well worth learning, especially when midterms are around the corner.

What the Meaning of ‘Is Is’ Is

September 11, 2011, 6:07 pm

By Ben Yagoda


Redundancy rears its head in many settings.

Redundant is almost always hurled as a negative epithet, but repetition can be an effective rhetorical device. Shorn of all redundancy, Shakespeare’s “most unkindest cut of all” would be pretty vanilla, and the ad slogan “Raid Kills Bugs Dead” would become the ho-hum “Raid Kills Bugs.” Meanwhile, Gertrude Stein’s “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” would have to be completely erased because the quotation is nothing butredundancy. (Completely erased is redundant as well—something is either erased or it isn’t. But I felt I needed the emphasis provided by completely.)

Most redundancy, however, truly is regrettable, a product of both laziness… Read More