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Superfluous words and phrases


Tautologies and pleonasms

It is amazing how many tautologies we use every day. You only need to look carefully at the words, often so familiar to us that we never do examine them, to see that they are tautologies. Pleonasms are harder to spot, but Chas Jonesauthor; formerly nerd responsible for keeping the site running; spent over 25 years in computer business; started out dusting bugs off valves, but in time graduated to writing software and managing projects; as published author with stack of waiting-to-be-published manuscripts tucked away, WritersServices is answer to his silent prayer; his book 'Ordinary Heroes' An extraordinary true story of wartime adventure; recently published book about Battle of Fulford-'Fulford the forgotten battle of 1066', published by Tempus ISBN 0752438107 provides a helpful list.

Tautology: Needless repetition of an idea in a different word, phrase, or sentence.

Pleonasm: The use of more words than are necessary for the expression of an idea. A pleonasm consists of two concepts, usually two words, which makes one redundant. Some pleonastic expressions are tautologies.

But... Every rule has its exceptions

Tautologous expressions are often found in legal documents e.g. ‘aid and abet’, ‘will and testament’. Some scholars suggest this practice developed when Anglo-Norman included terms from Anglo-Saxon beside Norman-French to make sure the meaning was clear to everybody. Now the words are ‘twinned’ and sound 'normal'.

Recognise any of these?

  • A large proportion of (many)
  • Absolutely essential
  • Absolutely necessary
  • Advance forward
  • Advance warning
  • Added bonus
  • Admission of responsibility (admit)
  • Affirmative yes
  • Aid and abet
  • Almost unique (Unique)
  • Alternative choice
  • Attach together
  • At this moment in time (now)
  • Basic essentials
  • By virtue of the fact that (because)
  • Close proximity
  • Close scrutiny
  • Collaborate together
  • Consensus of opinion
  • Combine together
  • Entirely eliminating
  • Exact replica
  • Exactly the same
  • Free gift
  • Future plans
  • In conjunction with (and)
  • In the absence of (without)
  • In the event that (if)
  • Join together
  • Joint collaboration
  • Lesbian woman
  • Leaves much to be desired (poor)
  • Made good their escape
  • Merge together
  • Minute detail
  • New innovation
  • On account of the fact that (because)
  • Oblong in shape
  • Patently obvious
  • Personal opinion
  • Plummet down
  • Prior experience
  • Placed under arrest
  • Put in an appearance
  • Razed to the ground
  • Revert back
  • Sahara desert (Sahara means desert)
  • Shorter in length
  • Surrounded on all sides
  • Successful achievement
  • Sudden impulse
  • Sum total
  • Technical jargon
  • Temporary reprieve
  • The ‘hoi polloi’ (hoi means ‘the’ in Greek)
  • Tiny speck
  • Top priority
  • Unexpected emergency
  • Unexpected surprise
  • Was of the opinion that (thought)
  • With the exception of

And the words, very, totally and completely are often redundant!