September 12, 2023
What Is Syntactic Ambiguity And How Can You Avoid It?
Syntactic ambiguity can cause confusion in your writing. Learn more about syntactic ambiguity and how you can avoid it.Learn more
You should avoid tautology in formal writing 99.9% of the time, but you can use tautology in creative writing when the time’s right. Learn what tautology means, peruse some examples, pick up tricks to avoid this bad habit, and see the few exceptions when you can use tautology.
Tautology is the needless repetition of an idea, statement, or word. In most cases, tautology weakens writing because when you communicate the same thing twice without adding new information, you dilute your message’s impact. Conciseness is powerful.
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You commonly find tautology in amateur writing when the author adds fluff content to hit a specific word count. Tautology tempts even the most experienced of writers because as they write, they consider different ways to phrase their message. But rather than choosing just one phrase, the author faces choice paralysis and includes both.
Once you glance at these examples, tautology will look very familiar to you.
At the risk of sounding redundant and repetitive, I’ll just cut to the chase.
You’ll either pass or fail if you take that class.
My mom assisted me by helping me with my homework.
The mountaineers climbed to the summit at the top of the mountain.
Unmarried bachelors tend to spend more on high-end electronics.
She was the reason why I pursued a freelancing career.
The sum total cost was more than we expected.
English speakers use tautology all the time in conversation, so while it’s marked as a mistake in formal writing, it’s hailed as a technique in creative writing such as songs, poems, screenplays, fiction work, and more.
Tautology is unwanted repetition, but not all repetition is unwanted. Meaningful repetitive techniques like anaphora and epistrophe emphasize your point and are particularly effective in speech writing.
When spot-checking your work for punctuation errors and spelling mistakes, also keep an eye out for tautologies. In a well-crafted sentence, every word provides value and the sentence changes when you remove a single word. If you remove a word and the sentence remains the same, you discovered a redundancy.
When you find a tautology, take the time to rework the sentence.
With these tricks, you can rid your writing of unwanted tautologies, and produce more impactful work.
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