For the past few weeks I’ve been editing a long book, the third volume of my trilogy. Part of that process has used the online editing tool, Prowritingaid, (try it free by clicking on this link). One of the many grammar functions it provides is a check for redundancy, that is the unnecessary repetition of an idea. Often, but not always, this can be the qualification of an absolute. Sometimes, it’s simple tautology. I’m intending a short series of examples here to aid other writers and prevent you making similar mistakes. By no means all of these are mine, but I have been caught out by a few.
Add an additional: If you add something, it’s another. You can say the same thing by using either ‘Add….’ or ‘An additional…’, depending on the way you wish to structure your sentence. You don’t need both.
Basic essentials: By their nature, essentials are elementary, so leave out ‘basic’.
Close scrutiny: Scrutiny is close study, so don’t qualifying it with ‘close’.
Difficult dilemma: A dilemma is never easy; ‘difficult’ is an unnecessary modifier.
End result: A result occurs at the end, so you don’t need end as a modifier.
Final outcome: An outcome is a result and is therefore final. The exception here is when you’re listing a series of related outcomes of a process; in that case, the last one would correctly be ‘the final outcome’.
For a period of hours: ‘Hours’ is plural, and duration is therefore implied. Try to specify a number of hours or generalize with ‘many’ or ‘several’.
3 a.m. in the morning: One of my bugbears. I hate this. The abbreviation ‘a.m.’ tells you it’s morning, so please use either ‘3 a.m.’ or ‘3 in the morning’ and help prevent me busting a blood vessel.
Plan ahead: If you’re planning, you’re preparing for something that will happen in the future. Use your head, not ‘ahead’.
Spell out in detail: If you ‘spell it out’ you provide details. Let’s not detail it in detail, shall we?
There, that’s made me feel better. But has it helped you? I hope so. A small point for fiction writers; by all means allow your characters to use these redundancies in their speech, under such circumstances they’re as forgivable as clichés: we need to make our people sound human, after all.