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Useless Words

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The People v. Redundancy, et al.

How Lawyers Inadvertently Repeat Themselves

Here’s a rabbit hole I never thought I would find myself mucking around in: trying to distinguish among all of the ways we label “obvious and unnecessary” repetition. Down in the hole, I found plain old “repetition,” but then there were “truism,” “tautology,” “pleonasm,” and “redundancy,” the last of which is the reason I had gone down there. I discovered that various sources, Internet and hard-bound, define these terms in circles, and then seem to give up by claiming them all “synonymous” with one or more of the others. Except some are longer.

So I propose:

 

that the word “repetition” be the universe of “obvious and unnecessary” and include all forms of saying the same thing twice. In this sense, a paragraph could be “repetitious,” and so could a word.

 

This means that a “truism” would be “obvious and unnecessary,” but only after so many millions of other people had used the same words to repeat the same “obvious and unnecessary” point, that it had become cliché, like, “What goes up must come down.”

 

A “tautology” then would be “obvious and unnecessary,” kind of like a “truism,” but in a fresh, creative way, as in, “If he hadn’t been carrying a gun, he never would have shot Milt.”

“Pleonasm” I suggest we give to the doctors, because it sounds medical, and it seems serious. Let them deal with it.

 

So, the tiniest category of “obvious and unnecessary” I have reserved for “redundancy,” which would be any word that repeats the essence of the word it modifies. This final category would comprise only the word pairings we write to clients, judges, and colleagues, while our minds are fully engaged elsewhere:

 

true facts binding contract
short synopsis brief overview
relevant witness sworn testimony
mandatory requirement patently obvious
excess verbiage actively engaged

 

Alice likes the proposal.

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About Gary Kinder

Gary Kinder

WordRake founder Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for AMLAW 100 firms, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies. He’s also a New York Times bestselling author. As a writing expert and coach, Gary was inspired to create WordRake when he noticed a pattern in writing errors that he thought he could address with technology.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to help writers produce clear, concise, and effective prose. It saves time and gives confidence. Writing and editing has never been easier.

WordRake takes you beyond the merely grammatical to the truly great—the quality editor you’ve always wanted. See for yourself.

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How Does it Work?

WordRake is editing software designed by writing expert and New York Times bestselling author Gary Kinder. Like an editor or helpful colleague, WordRake ripples through your document checking for needless words and cumbersome phrases. Its complex algorithms find and improve weak lead-ins, confusing language, and high-level grammar and usage slips.

WordRake runs in Microsoft Word and Outlook, and its suggestions appear in the familiar track-changes style. If you’ve used track changes, you already know how to use WordRake. There’s nothing to learn and nothing to interpret. Editing for clarity and brevity has never been easier.