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The Repetitive Writer

By Expert Author: Kevin Taylor

There's no law against it. Maybe there should be a law against repeating yourself again, and saying the same thing over and over, but there isn't a law against it so you needn't worry about such a law.
Did anything annoy you about this first paragraph? What was it? I'm sure you know.
We generally don't like too much repetition. While there's nothing actually wrong with using the same word several times in a short space, or even an using occasional tautology, it just bugs us to read it.
A reader is likely to ask: "Doesn't this writer have a very good vocabulary?" Repetition may be good for helping us remember things, but using the same words over and over simply bores us.
Obviously, the words that are most used - such as a, the, and, said - are exempt from this counsel. They are like the mortar that holds the bricks together, and we don't even really see them when we read. It is the nouns and verbs that we don't use all the time that we notice when used more than once. The less common the word, the less frequently we expect to see it.
I'm not skilled in a multitude of languages, but I am sure that even the simplest native tongue would have more than one way of saying the same thing; and since keeping readers or audiences informed or entertained is the work of a good communicator, we respond best when the writer (or speaker) has put some effort into maintaining our interest.
When I am editing my writing, I usually go over it several times; being alert for specific faults, such as:
Repetitious words and phrases. While a thesaurus and dictionary are good for finding substitute words, they aren't the whole answer. You may need to look for a different phrase, or reword a section of a sentence from a different angle, rather than simply looking for a substitute word.
Tautologies -unnecessarily saying the same thing twice over in different words - are very similar. A relevant example of a tautology is: 'Repeat again.'
Simply substituting a word without really thinking about its other meanings, and possibly causing misunderstanding.
Writing at the wrong level. Remember the expected level of reader knowledge you are writing for. A medical treatise is going to be very different, obviously, from a gossip magazine's commentary on the latest fashion garment. When you are replacing a word, try to find others of similar difficulty.
Choosing uncommon and difficult words just to show off my vocabulary skill (or my ability to find unusual words in the thesaurus). While I have a reasonable vocabulary, some books I've read have so many unusual and unfamiliar words that I have almost had to read them with a dictionary in my other hand - which slows my reading down so much that I seldom bother to pick them up again unless they are exceptionally interesting.
The writer's equipment is words - and using them properly is your skill.

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