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"Redundancy is what happens when you tell your reader the same thing twice, which is called redundancy."

Can you spot the problem in this sentence? First it tells you the definition of redundancy. Then, it tells you that this problem is called "redundancy." This sentence tells you the same thing TWO times! That means it is REDUNDANT.

Redundancy, also known as "repetition," can be a serious problem in formal writing. As you can tell, when a writer is redundant, his or her work can become very boring. Not only that, but it is a waste of valuable time and space (especially on the SAT Writing Test) to tell your reader the same thing twice.

It is important to note that redundancy is NOT the same thing as restating the same point in the thesis statement, body paragraph, and conclusion of your essay. In this case, a writer restates the idea to remind his or her reader what the essay is about. This kind of repetition is a mark of good writing.

In contrast, a REDUNDANT writer is likely to repeat the same minor idea several times within one paragraph or one sentence. Here are a few examples of redundant sentences, along with their corrections:

WRONG - Redundant sentences RIGHT - Concise sentences
Mom asked, "Can you please clear the kitchen table?" asked Mom. Mom asked, "Can you please clear the kitchen table?"
For his birthday, Jim just got a new guitar as a birthday present. For his birthday, Jim just got a new guitar.
The ferocious bear eagerly attacked our tent, while we ran away screaming. Finally, after we ran away screaming, we saw the bear leave. The ferocious bear eagerly attacked our tent, while we ran away screaming. Finally, we saw the bear leave.
Since I am very busy, I cannot attend the orchestra concert due to my busy schedule. I cannot attend the orchestra concert due to my busy schedule.

Redundancy has much in common with OVERWRITING.

Overwriting is a problem shared by even many good writers - perhaps you have read the work of a few, such as Thomas Hardy or Charles Dickens. When someone overwrites, he or she uses MANY words when FEWER will do. Overwriters are eager to use many synonyms, so they often write lists or include unnecessary clauses. Just like redundancy, overwriting can make an essay boring!

If you do want to use many synonyms, you should spread them throughout your essay instead of writing them all in one list. Even though overwriting may be acceptable in some fictional texts, you should try to write concisely in formal essays. (Concise writers only use the words they NEED.) Try to get to the point as quickly as possible!

To get a better idea of what overwriting means, and how you might correct it, please look at the following sentences:

WRONG - Overwritten sentences RIGHT - Concise sentences
After we argued, my friend was unhappy, sad, depressed, and upset. After we argued, my friend was upset.
The most important quality for success is courage, bravery, or temerity. The most important quality for success is courage.
I decided to go calm down and relax. I decided to go calm down.
An anxious, worried overwriter may use too many various words to explain, expound upon, clarify, or justify his ideas, thoughts, or points. A worried overwriter may use too many words to explain his ideas.
It is easy to notice, spot, see, and observe overwriting. It is easy to notice overwriting.

The trickiest instances of overwriting in your own essays will be hard to spot - so be vigilant! Eliminate redundancy and overwriting; embrace concision.