Did I Tell You That Already Before?

by Cherie Tucker

September 2015

This morning the voice on the radio announced that something was “the exact same” product as another one. Then an article in the paper said food makers are having a hard time finding natural colorings to replace artificial ones so food can be “the same exact shade of yellow.” Stop for a minute and think about that. If you say something is the same as something else, doesn’t that mean they aren’t different from each other? I’m sure the writers wanted to emphasize the precise similarity between two things, but using redundancies isn’t the best way to do that. There are other, better choices than redundancies that allow you to describe things.

There are words and expressions that stand for precise things which are enough by themselves and don’t need embellishment. Just as “exact” means what it means, a.m. and p.m. stand for specific times. You don’t need to say, as people do, that it’s 12 a.m. in the morning. Twins come in pairs, so you don’t need to write that there were two twins in the crowd. And there is also no need to write that the ground was covered with frozen ice. Ever.

Redundancies can crop up frequently when using acronyms as well, and we hear them all the time. People forget (or are unaware) that the last initial in many acronyms stands for a word that you don’t need to repeat. An ATM is an Automatic Teller Machine. Don’t write about having a problem with the ATM machine. You can forget your PIN, but the N stands for number, and that piece of information has already been provided. The same problem can crop up with familiar terms. You wouldn’t write about joining the YMCA association or watching NASCAR racing.

Be careful that the common misuse of language we hear every day doesn’t affect your good writing. Say what you mean with the right word, not with two wrong ones.

Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference.  She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits as well. GrammarWorks@msm.com.

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