Professional Style


July 2014
Spot the Error

During which time period was Steinbeck’s classic The Grapes of Wrath set?

Technically, there is no error in the “Steinbeck” sentence above … just redundancy. Since one of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of period is a state of culture having a definable place in time and space, the word time as a modifier is unnecessary. Look again. When you reread the sentence without time, you see that the question loses only length, not meaning.

Below is a small sampling of other frequently used redundancies:

  • Hot water heater – Drop hot.
  • Past history – Is there such a thing as future history? Drop past.
  • Close proximity – Pick one or the other.
  • Few in number – Just use few.
  • Please RSVP – RSVP stands for “Répondre, s’il vous plaît” or “Respond, if you please.” You can say either “RSVP” or “Please respond.”
  • Temper tantrum – Drop temper.
  • Kneel down – How else can you kneel? Drop down.
  • Hoist up – Ditto. Drop up. (That’s funny … “drop up” … get it? Oh, I amuse myself.)
  • Each and every – Pick one.
  • Overused cliché – Drop overused.
  • Advance warning/Advance planning – Drop advance.

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