10.4 Reduce redundancy
Redundancy is not merely wasteful of words, but wasteful of the writer's most precious resource, the reader's concentration. With every statement of content that the reader already knows, the text's grip on the reader's concentration loosens.
Writers often give data in a table and then report on exactly the same data in the text. They would be better advised to use the table for reporting data and use the text for drawing conclusions from the data. Once readers have been duped once or twice into reading redundant material, they begin skipping over sections of the text looking for what they don't know. In doing so, they are snatching back control of the text--and, thus, of the thinking--because the writer gave up control through redundancy. There is no greater sin among expository writers than that of handing the thinking back to the reader. Thinking is the writer's job.
All subjects tempt the writer to include unnecessary ideas. For instance, in a report you write, you may be tempted to include an idea in several different sections, justifying yourself by saying you need to make each section a free-standing document. Yet, the reader could well become weary of an idea too often stated. So find the section that the information most powerfully affects and give it full treatment there, once. Thereafter, you may need to refer to the idea, but you need not detail it.
Standard examples of redundancy include such phrases as "true facts" or "first began." What facts are not true; when did you ever "second begin"? But that's only the beginning of redundancy. Most of our patterned phrases, phrases we may use more for their poetry than for their meaning, are redundant. For instance the "in order" in "in order to" is needed only about two or three times for every hundred it is used. The "or not" in "whether or not" can usually be omitted.
But the examples become more complex and more interesting
when you see that many phrases of timing are totally needless.
For example, I often see, "I look forward to seeing you
in the future." Can you look forward to seeing someone in
the past? What information does "in the future" add
to that sentence? So watch out for such phrases as "in the
past," "at that point in time," "during the
course of," or "in the process of"--these can
be dropped whole from your writing with no effect on your meaning.
Look also for the (noun) of phrases that can simply be removed. "In the month of August," "is in the process of doing," and "processing at the rate of 34 MIPS" all seem to contain needless the (noun) of phrases.