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Pleonasm, defined – the use of more words than necessary to make a point.
You may recognize some of these redundant phrases and combinations of words that I find vexatious. They may annoy editors, too.
“Fiction novel” – um, a novel is fiction, so this is like saying “frozen ice cube.” Conversely, a melted ice cube thins my soda.
“Nonfiction article” – since an article is by definition nonfiction, why add the redundant adjective? I’ve seen true story, which makes sense as the word story is more ambiguous.
“Unexpected surprise” – aren’t surprises unexpected intrinsically? If they were expected, they wouldn’t be a surprise.
“Past history” – isn’t all history by definition in the past?
“He thought to himself” – who else can he think to?
“She said to me” – if we’re the only two in the conversation, who else would she say it to?
Here’s a list of more pleonasms, http://www.wordfocus.com/pleonasm.html, but if you have some favorites that bug you, feel free to share in the comments.
Overused cliché – clichés by nature are overused phrases.
You can find lists of these so I won’t go on. But what about these types of sayings?
Oxymorons - figures of speech with apparently contradictory terms
“Authentic replica” – how can it be authentic if it’s a replica?
“Invited guest” – it’s more interesting as an uninvited guest.
“Cash money” – I’d find it easier to simply say cash.
“White milk” – of course, it’s white! But I know people used it to differentiate from chocolate milk. Plain milk would make more sense if you have to have an adjective.
Here’s a fun site with lots of oxymorons. Although, I don’t agree with all.
And these aren’t usually considered oxymorons, however, do they really mean what we want to say?
“I honestly think” – what? Usually you’re dishonest?
“To be honest” – ditto.
“Frankly” – ditto
Anyone know what these are called? Or is oxymoron good enough?
Overuse of “As”
My critique group calls me the “As Nazi” since I notice when this simple two letter word is overused. Sometimes, writers simply need to use “when,” “while” or “and.” Other times, rephrasing the sentence is better or we might break the one sentence into two. I think we want to show things happening simultaneously, but since one can’t read both sections of a sentence simultaneously, how often is it needed?
See how tiring it can get:
I petted the cat as he jumped up onto the afghan in my lap. As he kneaded the blanket, I pushed on his body so he’d lay down. As the waves of contentment oozed from the cat as I petted him, my dog whined with jealousy. As my husband walked into the room, he laughed. “I’m the servant,” he said “and you’re the petter.” As if to prove his point, the dog pushed her muzzle under my arm. I petted her with my left hand as I petted the cat with my right.
I might have gotten a bit excessive with my “as”es in this example, but when I’m critiquing stories or guiding students, I often see an overabundance.
Overused Words Specific to the Writer
There’s a well-published writer that both my husband and I read. This author’s favorite verb is “eased.” If there was a way to count how many times it was used in his novels, I’d find that interesting.
Do you notice overused words in a body of work? If so, share the words—but not the author—in the comments.
And if there are other writing overages that irritate you, I’d like to hear about them as well.
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.