Pitfall #9: Department of Redundancy Department

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McIntyre’s First Law:

Under the right circumstances, anything I tell you could be wrong.

Pitfall #9: Department of Redundancy Department,


Department of Redundancy Department

Samuel R. Delany’s technique for determining whether a phrase is redundant (if you have any question): choose one of the words you suspect of being redundant. Switch it to its antonym. If the resulting construction is inherently ridiculous, an oxymoron, you have redundancy. For example, a “large giant.” As opposed to a small giant? Other common speech-habit redundancies include rich heiresses and consensus of opinion.

Hyperbole is a fine and respected literary tradition, and speech habits are indispensable for creating characters. (Think of Stephen Maturin’s charming habit of saying “little small.”)

But when you use these techniques, be sure you know you’re doing it — and why.

— Vonda

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Pitfall #9: Department of Redundancy Department — 1 Comment

  1. I give three standard pieces of advice to people who write fiction for my game properties:

    1) Do a find and replace for the words “very” and “*ly”. Replace them with ‘poodle’. Any time you can punt a poodle and keep the sentence’s meaning intact, do so. This de-adjectification is wonderful for tightening up sentences.

    2) Most writers should write their story from beginning to end, and then toss out the first four pages (~1,000 words) and pick up the narrative from there. If there’s anything vital missing, add it back in later on.

    3) Having done steps 1 and 2, take the fiction and read it aloud with a red pen in your hand.