This is an excerpt from the 50th edition of The Write Fit, a fortnightly newsletter about writing, editing and proofreading, content marketing and good editorial practices for business, from Sarah Mitchell and Dan Hatch at Typeset.
My husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in April. One of the secrets to our success is my ability to tune out a persistent habit he has of repeating everything two or three times in a single conversation.
He’s an engineer. I’ve discovered repetition is a common way engineers communicate with each other. Being risk-averse, they confirm and reconfirm an idea with their peers. It’s part of the collaborative way they work within a team and is totally expected.
It’s great for engineering but not so great for marriage. It’s especially not great for writers when each repetition comes packaged in an interruption. I can partially blame COVID-19 since he used to go to an office every day while I worked from home in blissful silence. The only repetition in my day was letting the dog out and that never made me feel murderous.
Repetition sucks for readers, too. Along with its first cousin redundancy, it’s one of the most insidious ways to clutter your writing and pad your word count. Your readers quickly lose interest and may not recognise why – especially if they don’t live with an engineer.
Are you falling victim to these (or similar) repetitions and redundancies?
If you’re writing to a word count — say, for an awards submission or feature article — scrutinising your copy for repetitive words and meanings is a great way to claw back valuable real estate on the page. It’s also going to add punch to what you’re saying and make things more interesting for your readers.
I’d love to hear examples you find in your own writing, especially if they’re specific to your industry. Send them through and I’ll include them in my next writing workshop. You never know whose marriage may benefit from the tip.
18 August 2021
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