Saturday, September 14, 2013

Wet Water

Once upon a time, many years ago, I lived in a land far far away. The land of which I speak is known as Sydney, Australia. I spent a couple of my birthdays there, and one year my mom sent me a birthday present. (Remind me to call her after this post to ask why she only sent a gift one year.) 

I love gifts, so I was excited, and I headed down to the post office (which in Australia is actually up).

When I got there, my package was waiting for me, but get this: they wanted me to pay for it. I can’t remember why; I think it was customs related. But the point is that it was my birthday and this was a GIFT—and there was no way I was going to pay for my birthday gift. 

Gifts, by definition, are free! That’s why they’re awesome! 

And that’s why offers like this, that we see all the time, are redundant: 

It’s like saying “wet water” or “famous celebrity” or “male chauvinist pig.”

(I don’t know about you, but every pig I’ve ever met has been a male chauvinist.) 

When we’re writing, we want to proofread for redundancies like these because we don’t want unnecessary words weighing down our sentences. 

One of the most common redundant phrases I see in my students’ papers is “The reason why I _______ is because _______.”

This can be cut down to “The reason I ______ is ______.” 

Another one that cracks me up is when sentences start with “As human beings, we should ________.”

As far as I know, we are all human beings, right? Isn’t it safe to assume our reader knows that?

Or am I out of the loop? Have aliens penetrated our atmosphere? 

That might explain Miley Cyrus’ abnormally long tongue.


Andrew Leon said...

As you stated, actually, not all of us are humans; some humans are pigs and some are... other things. At that point, it is entirely valid to specify that your statements apply only to the human readers.

Shelly said...

I think I am redundant.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Gosford, NSW for one birthday.

Jaya J said...

Andrew has a point :p

the late phoenix said...

...and her hair horns.

the best things in life are free. that's what i tell myself anyway. it's not working. i'm an alien.

Lorena said...

Great story but I'm curious to know what happened to the gift. Did you pay for it or did you convince them to give it to you for *free*? ;) (I can totally see you explaining the contradiction to the clerk!)

Ruth Schiffmann said...

Curiosity alone would have swayed me to pay for the gift. Did you pay? Hope it was worth it ;)

Anonymous said...

I love this! I have to say I am definitely guilty of doing this in my writing time and time again. I will definitely need to be more on the look out for this because you are right it is just redundant.

Stephanie said...

Strunk & White's section on this ("omit needless words") is great. It's so easy to go on and on about something that could be said in two words. "Owing to the fact that" becomes "since." "The fact that he had not succeeded" becomes "his failure." It's hard to spot them, though, in your own writing.

Free gifts, of course, aren't free: you only get them by buying something. **Pbbtth** marketers.

I want to know why Miley's freakishly long tongue is BLUE. It's like someone spliced in a lizard gene.

Jono said...

"Brought to you by your Department of Redundancy Department."

traci's mixed bag said...

I've been told by professors that I'm "wordy". My husband's trying to help with this by teaching me to edit. It's so HARD. that's what she said.

Theresa Milstein said...

How is it that I've missed this many of your posts? I'm a terrible person. I don't even have moving as an excuse.

Miley Cyrus's tongue. Like so many things about her that night--not sexy.