50 Redundant Phrases to Avoid

By Mark Nichol

In conversation, it’s easy in the midst of spontaneous speech to succumb to verbosity and duplication. In writing, redundancy is less forgivable but fortunately easy to rectify. Watch out for these usual suspects:

1. Absolutely certain or sure/essential/guaranteed: Someone who is certain or sure is already without doubt. Something that is essential is intrinsically absolute. A guarantee is by nature absolute (or should be). Abandon absolutely in such usage.

2. Actual experience/fact: An experience is something that occurred (unless otherwise indicated). A fact is something confirmed to have happened. Actual is extraneous in these instances.

3. Add an additional: To add is to provide another of something. Additional is extraneous.

4. Added bonus: A bonus is an extra feature, so added is redundant.

5. Advance notice/planning/reservations/warning: Notices, planning, reservations, and warnings are all, by their nature, actions that occur before some event, so qualifying such terms with advance is superfluous.

6. As for example: As implies that an example is being provided, so omit “an example.”

7. Ask a question: To ask is to pose a question, so question is redundant.

8. At the present time: “At present” means “at this time,” so avoid the verbose version.

9. Basic fundamentals/essentials: Fundamentals and essentials are by their nature elementary, so remove basic from each phrase.

10. (Filled to) capacity: Something filled is done so to capacity, so describing something as “filled to capacity” is repetitive.

11. Came at a time when: When provides the necessary temporal reference to the action of coming; “at a time” is redundant.

12. Close proximity/scrutiny: Proximity means “close in location,” and scrutiny means “close study,” so avoid qualifying these terms with close.

13. Collaborate/join/meet/merge together: If you write of a group that collaborates or meets together, you imply that there’s another way to collect or confer. To speak of joining or merging together is, likewise, redundant.

14. Completely filled/finished/opposite: Something that is filled or finished is thoroughly so; completely is redundant. Something that is opposite isn’t necessarily diametrically opposed, especially in qualitative connotations, but the modifier is still extraneous.

15. Consensus of opinion: A consensus is an agreement but not necessarily one about an opinion, so “consensus of opinion” is not purely redundant, but the phrase “of opinion” is usually unnecessary.

16. (During the) course (of): During means “in or throughout the duration of”), so “during the course of” is repetitive.

17. Definite decision: Decisions may not be final, but when they are made, they are unequivocal and therefore definite, so one should not be described as “a definite decision.”

18. Difficult dilemma: A dilemma is by nature complicated, so omit difficult as a modifier.

19. Direct confrontation: A confrontation is a head-on conflict. Direct as a qualifier in this case is redundant.

20. End result: A result is something that occurs at the end, so omit end as a modifier of result.

21. Enter in: To enter is to go in, so throw in out.

22. Estimated at about/roughly: An estimate is an approximation. About and roughly are superfluous.

23. False pretense: A pretense is a deception, so false is redundant.

24. Few in number: Few refers to a small number; do not qualify few with the modifier “in number.”

25. Final outcome: An outcome is a result and is therefore intrinsically final.

26. First began, new beginning: A beginning is when something first occurs, so first and new are superfluous terms in these cases.

27. For a period/number of days: Days is plural, so a duration is implied; “a period of” or “a number of” is redundant. It’s better to specify the number of days or to generalize with many.

28. Foreign imports: Imports are products that originate in another country, so their foreign nature is implicit and the word foreign is redundant.

29. Forever and ever: Ever is an unnecessary reduplication of forever.

30. Free gift: A gift is by definition free (though cynics will dispute that definition), so free is extraneous.

31. Invited guests: Guests are intrinsically those who have an invitation, so invited is redundant.

32. Major breakthrough: A breakthrough is a significant progress in an effort. Though major is not directly redundant, the notable nature of the event is implicit.

33. [Number] a.m. in the morning/p.m. in the evening: The abbreviations a.m. and p.m. already identify the time of day, so omit “in the morning” or “in the evening.”

34. Past history/record: A history is by definition a record of past occurrences, and a record is documentation of what has already happened. In both cases, past is redundant.

35. Plan ahead: To plan is to prepare for the future. Ahead is extraneous.

36. Possibly might: Might indicates probability, so omit the redundant qualifier possibly.

37. Postpone until later: To postpone is to delay. Later is superfluous.

38. Protest against: To protest is to communicate opposition. Against is redundant.

39. Repeat again: To repeat is to reiterate an action, so again is unnecessary.

40. Revert back: Something that reverts returns to an earlier state. Back is superfluous.

41. Same identical: Same and identical are just that (and that). Omit same as a qualifier for identical.

42. Since the time when: Since indicates a time in the past; “the time when” is superfluous.

43. Spell out in detail: To spell out is to provide details, so “in detail” is repetitive.

44. Still remains: Something that remains is still in place. Still is redundant.

45. Suddenly exploded: An explosion is an immediate event. It cannot be any more sudden than it is.

46. Therapeutic treatment: Treatment in the sense of medical care is by nature therapeutic, so the adjective is redundant.

47. Unexpected surprise: No surprise is expected, so the modifier is extraneous.

48. Unintended mistake: A mistake is an inadvertently erroneous action. The lack of intention is implicit.

49. Usual custom: A custom is something routinely and repeatedly done or observed, and usual is redundant.

50. Written down: Something written has been taken down. Down is superfluous.

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69 Responses to “50 Redundant Phrases to Avoid”

  • Linda

    Love this list! Will pass it on to all my writing groups.
    I have one that I hear all the time and which, when I was working in sports journalism, was drummed into me:
    He set a new world record in the 800 metres
    He set a world record in the 800 metres
    I know people will say it gives added emphasis but it is really redundant.
    Glad I found this site. Thank you.

  • Wendy

    Elizabeth, what about “Strategic plan”? Do you not like a “tactical plan”? Or do you expect that the only thing I can do “strategically” is plan?

  • Wendy

    Many of the phrases mentioned in the article–and the comments–are often hackneyed, but not necessarily from the Department of Redundancy Department.

    “Invited guest is a redundant phrase. No question.”
    Ever hear of an “uninvited guest”?

    “Something that is filled or finished is thoroughly so; completely is redundant.”
    Also wrong. “Fill” is to put something into something. Something can very much be “partially filled” or “filled half-way.”

    “Usual custom: A custom is something routinely and repeatedly done or observed, and usual is redundant.”
    A “custom” is a manner or sequence of actions. If this custom is in a place where everyone does it–like asking, “Have you eaten?”in China–it’s a “usual custom.” Take that same custom and put it in America and it becomes and “unusual” custom. “Usual custom” is only redundant if it’s common to, and being talked about, by the same majority.

    “End result: A result is something that occurs at the end, so omit end as a modifier of result.”
    Processes can be broken into stages, and each stage can have its own “intermediate result.”

    “Repeat again: To repeat is to reiterate an action, so again is unnecessary.”
    If I want you to say it once, I ask you to “repeat” it. If once wasn’t enough, I ask you to “repeat again.” If I still don’t catch what you’re saying, I’ll ask you to “repeat yet again.”

    And so on and so forth.
    In fact, on further review, I’d say that most of these “redundant phrases to avoid” are more the author’s lack of understanding of the subtleties of the English language than useful guides for aspiring writers.

  • Ben

    If I’m in the same room with someone we are proximity to each other. If she’s sitting on my lap we’re in close proximity to each other.

  • Kimbly

    The phrase “live life” is nails on a chalkboard for me. I also cringe at “the thing is, is”.
    Other peeves include “chase after” and “crave for”.

  • Rod

    In general, any form of the word utilize, or usage can be substituted with the less pretentious word “use.”

    The word “articulate” is often used when “describe” would be more appropriate. Articulation is generally a mechanical description.

  • Len

    We, the people of the United States, in order to form a MORE PERFECT union. There is no greater degree of ‘perfect.’ Even the authors of the US Constitution were guilty of redundancy!

  • Kulturtrager

    Raul Suarez writes, “Ask a question”. You can asks for: a favour, a clarification, change, compassion, etc. Not always a question.

    Sigh. These are ALL questions. You are incorrect Mr. Suarez.

    The lack of logic from some posters here is depressing.

    One writes, “Some of these examples are just plain wrong anyway. Like “invited guests” supposedly being a redundancy because guests are by nature invited. Not true. There is such a thing as an unexpected guest.

    Another, Frank Bonham writes, “Invited guest is also valid. Nowhere in the definition of guest is the word invitation. If I show up at your house and you allow me to enter, I am a guest whether you invited me or not.”

    Someone becomes a guest as soon as they are permitted entry. Being expected or unexpected is irrelevant.

    Invited guest is a redundant phrase. No question.

  • Michael Bagamery

    “Comprised of” so irks me. To “comprise” means “to consist of,” so the phrase “comprised of” means “consists of of.”

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