Wednesday, April 12, 2023



Over years of writing, my editors have caught my tautology blunders: needless repetition of an idea expressed in a different waya phrase or sentence that doesn’t need qualification. It’s a common phenomenon in new writers, but even the pros slip up every once in a while. Here are a few common ones, but you can probably think of other examples.

Going outside, rain was falling hard.

Rain always falls, even if it’s slanted. There’s also an amusing misplaced modifier here. 

Try something like: Driven by the howling wind, the rain lashed their skin.

Tears welled up in her eyes.

Tears always appear in the eyes. Try something like: Her tears spilled onto her cheeks.

The sunrise arrived quickly as dawn broke.

Although dawn and sunrise are not exactly equivalent, the usage of both words in the same sentence is unnecessary. Economy of words. Either dawn broke or the sunrise arrived.

Can you identify this sunrise spot somewhere in the USA? 
(Image: Kwei Quartey)

The tight-knit group was gathered together. 

A group is a gathering, tight-knit or otherwise. Much better would be, The group was tightly knit.

The reason for this is because . . .

“Reason” and “because” both convey the same idea.

She thought to herself.

All thoughts are to oneself. She thought is sufficient.

He whispered quietly to her.

Whispering is a quiet form of speech.

They gave a brief summary.

Not terrible, but again, the “brief” is unnecessary.

He was glad to be returning back home.

“Return” means going back.

She nodded her head in agreement.

Nodding is a gesture of the head to indicate agreement.

She knocked sharply on the door.

Although this isn’t blatantly a tautology, in most cases it’s understood where you normally knock. Clearly, you can also knock on a window. Nevertheless, I’d suggest something like, She approached the door and knocked sharply. A line in the present novel I’m writing is: “As he began kicking convulsively, he heard the sound of someone knocking. And that’s the way I’ll leave it.

Got some favorites? Let us know down below.



  1. "She thought to herself" has caught me more than once! There's always an antidote. Have you read John Wyndham's The Chrysalids?

  2. 'The present incumbent' is always a fun one, and it seems to keep cropping up!

    1. Oh yes! That is a good one I hadn’t remembered.

  3. Kwei, I read your blog myself, and in my opinion I think it a sad misfortune that so many writers don't realize that saying something once is adequate enough.