linguist • writer • editor • lecturer • broadcaster
[Thursday 24 January, 2013]
[taw-tol-uh-jee], tautologous [taw-tol-uh-gus]
I myself personally did it.
She sat alone by herself without anyone around.
The cat chased the dog. Also, the dog was chased by the cat.
There is something wrong. Badly wrong. Each example seems to contain unnecessary repetitions. Alone = by herself = without anyone around. You don’t need all three. One will do.
Unnecessary repetition in language is called tautology, and this is something you should really try to avoid, when you speak or write. A certain amount of repetition can be useful - to emphasise something dramatically, for example. A certain amount. But there’s no need to repeat yourself, most of the time, to make your point. Such repetition really isn’t necessary. You don’t have to say things over and over, to get your message across. If you do express points repeatedly, just by changing the words slightly, people will soon realise that you’re talking waffle. Reformulating ideas in this way just wastes a lot of space, and wastes people’s time. And people don’t like to have their time wasted. Time-wasting isn’t something that most of us are happy about.
Cartoon 96
Related notions in this book: circumlocution

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