concise writing / editing / self-editing

Problems with Repetition: Examples

Sometimes real examples of writing issues are easier to understand than lengthy, complicated explanations. In this new series (see the list of “Real Examples of Various Writing Issues“) you’ll see various real-life writing problems and suggested solutions.

Examples of Issues with Repetition:

In the following cases, the writer might want to consider some changes to avoid repetition (though sometimes repetition can be really useful!). Can you see what the problem is in each case? Do you agree with the editor’s remarks and suggested changes? If not, what solution would you suggest?

“I have just had a meeting with the last councillors left in town. There are only two operating businesses in the town. They are the grocery store and gas station.”
–> “… left in town. The only businesses still operating are the grocery store and gas station.” (Avoid repeating “the town” at the end of the 1st and 2nd sentences)

“This strange occurrence in my life continued happening, this time involving our children. My son was in his last year of high school, and this morning his preferred university called to confirm his acceptance.”
–> I see you’ve highlighted “this” which you used 3 times in two sentences. When you find repetitions like this, it’s usually a sign that you need to rewrite the sentence (though sometimes we use repetition for a certain purpose). You might write: “These strange kinds of occurrences continued to happen, and even started to involve our children. My son was in his last year of high school, and one morning his preferred university called to confirm his acceptance.”

“This triggers old memories of psychic readings come back to life.”
–> You don’t need the phrase “come back to life”; the word “triggers” tells us that the memories have come back to life.

“There were some overnight trails in the Provincial Park that looked interesting. The alpine trail looked especially interesting.”
–> The “looked interesting” (twice) sounds repetitive. Possibly: “There were some overnight trails in the Provincial Park, especially the alpine one, which looked interesting.”

“It’s only upon reflecting back in hindsight that…”
–> “Reflecting” and “hindsight” both mean “looking back” so I don’t think you need to include “back” – it’s kind of repetitive. Even those two words are repetitive. You could just write: “It’s only in hindsight that…”

“You will never have enough if you don’t see what you have right now as enough.”
–> You might want to use a synonym such as “sufficient” or “adequate” at the end of the sentence, instead of the second “enough.”

“Several policemen and masked members of the special forces team were standing on the sidewalk in front of the building. Several officers and several bank officials were moving in and out of the doors.”
–> Several uses too many of “several”! Perhaps: “Several policemen and masked members of the special forces team were standing on the sidewalk in front of the building while a number of officers and bank officials…”

“Our new neighbours rented the adjoining house next to ours.”
–> “The new neighbours rented the house adjoining ours.”

“The thrill of the battle surged through his veins, the blood rushing through his veins.”
–> Perhaps: “The thrill of the battle caused the blood to surge through his veins.” Or ??

“A blur of red emerged from the dust on the horizon, becoming clearer as it got closer until it was no longer a blur.”
–> I would suggest leaving off “until it was no longer a blur.” Since it was becoming clearer, it was obviously no longer so blurry.

“The soldier held the musket by the barrel, right fist over left, and held it like a baseball bat.”
–> Just: “The soldier held the musket by the barrel, right fist over left, like a baseball bat.”

“She broadened the relevance of her ideas for broader contemporary training and development.”
–> Maybe the 2nd use of “broadened/broader” could be a synonym such as “expanded” or “enlarged”?

“Still holding hands, we crossed the lobby and I felt happy. We had almost kissed and that made me feel elated.”
–> Leave out “and I felt happy”—as “elated” in the next sentence means very happy.

“The chills from that moment came back as if I was reliving it again.”
–> You don’t need to say “again” because that’s what the “re” in “reliving” means.

“In front of us stood a huge, mysterious fortress made of stone. It was a huge and magnificent sight.”
–> In the second sentence, just write: “It was a magnificent sight.”

“Sure…” she said, rolling her eyes and jogging a little as she crossed the street. She smiled to herself, feeling her small triumph. “I have to go, Sam, bye.” She hung up the cell phone quickly, not giving her friend time to say goodbye, but there were was no time left. She needed to hurry.
–> You have started several sentences in a row with “she” and also used it within the sentences. Perhaps you could reword it something like this: “Sure…” Sandra said, rolling her eyes and jogging a little to get across the busy street. A smile crossed her face, reflecting the pleasure of her small triumph. “I have to go, Sam, bye.” Hanging the cell phone up quickly, Sam’s goodbye was cut off, but there was no time left. She needed to hurry.

“Every corner of the house was decorated flawlessly and looked expensive.”
–> You probably don’t need to include “and looked expensive.” The description already makes it clear that everything is expensive.

“Another scream screamed through the midnight hour and she couldn’t stand it any longer.”
–> I think you should change the second “screamed.” Maybe use “scream tore” or “scream ripped.”

Your turn!

Did reading the above examples help you understand the need to self-edit carefully, to ask a beta-reader to check your writing, and to think carefully whether you’ve used annoying repetition? What did you learn from these examples?

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