Pleonasms and Clear Writing – Who is that bald-headed man?

In previous blogs about writing, I’ve criticized replacing “said” with words like “hissed,” or “snarled” or “spat.” In most cases, the dialogue or context of the sentences is sufficient to supply the emotion required. There are many other types of redundancies, and they’re known as pleonasms. Simply put, a pleonasm is an unnecessary word or phrase. The object of clear, crisp writing is to get rid of them.

Some of these are so common that I just bet they’ve crept into your writing. Here are a few examples of ones I see all the time: “It’s an added bonus.”  (A bonus is additional by definition.) “There was no advance warning.”  (All warnings are given in advance or they would be pretty useless). “He was bald-headed.” (If you refer to a bald man, head is usually what you’re referring to, yes?) “The body was found in close proximity to the school.” (Something proximate has to be close).

Here’s a great website that lists thousands of these redundant words and phrases. Read it and I’m sure you’ll find some that will make you smile. Some of them you have to think about for a minute before you can spot the redundancy. And others will make you wince in recognition.

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