Do You Really Need That “Different”?
An editor points out the expendability of the word different:
I often come across unnecessary words my writers insist on using. My current pet peeve is the word “different” when talking about multiple locations. Is there any instance when “different” would be necessary when talking about a specific number of multiples?
The editor is thinking of examples like these:
The paper deals with the development of a tool used for the life cycle assessment of residential buildings located in three different European towns.
Microsoft Office 2013 comes in twelve different editions, including three editions for retail outlets, two editions for volume licensing channel, etc.
He came to three different conclusions.
Here are three different recipes to make the perfect brisket for your Erin Go Bragh holiday.
In each example, the meaning remains unchanged when different is deleted:
The paper deals with the development of a tool used for the life cycle assessment of residential buildings located in three European towns.
He came to three conclusions.
Here are three recipes to make the perfect brisket for your Erin Go Bragh holiday.
Microsoft Office 2013 comes in twelve editions, including three editions for retail outlets, two editions for volume licensing channel, etc.
Certainly writers for whom word-count is an important consideration should eliminate the unnecessary different in such contexts.
I don’t know if there is a context in which different would be necessary when preceded by a number, but I think there are instances in which it’s not totally unnecessary. For example, a writer’s purpose might be to emphasize variety:
A tradition exists among some families to serve twelve different dishes at Wigilia symbolizing the Twelve Apostles.
In most instances, however, the editor is correct in finding this use of different redundant.
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