How to Avoid Redundancies

Tips to help business professionals avoid redundancies

A white piece of paper with the word "me" written on it repeatedly.
Beware of business documents that use
redundant language. Follow these tips to avoid
redundancies in your business writing.

Sure, Gertrude Stein was lauded for her avant-garde wisdom when she wrote, "A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose," but when repetitions surface in your business writing, your document comes across as unprofessional and often confusing. While literary geniuses are free to flout style conventions, business people must adhere to them. So how do you purge your business documents of redundancies? Try the following techniques to help you get started, and look at the Effective Business Communication ebook for an in-depth look at business writing.

Simple fixes for repetitive business writing

Editing and revising your business writing needn't be hard. Start with the easiest ways of eradicating repetitions. Read the passage aloud to determine if you can delete any words without losing the meaning. Try replacing proper names with "he," "she," or "they" as this may cut your use of a proper name by half or even two-thirds. Cut out parts of stock phrases that include redundancies, such as "thoughts and ideas" or "hopes and dreams." These phrases harbor innate repetitions, which are poetic, but not concise; use "thoughts" or "ideas," but not both. You can often eliminate entire phrases, especially if you have covered the concept earlier in your argument. Most executives use too many words to convey a point. Thinning out your business writing strengthens its impact and doubles as a great way to stop redundancies.

Dig a little deeper—moderate fixes for redundant business writing

When discussing plans for a five-year marketing strategy, your first draft may be replete with terms like "growth," "analysis," "sustainability," "revenue," and "cost." The excessive use of the same words weighs your document down, often resulting in difficult reading. You can use a thesaurus to find synonyms, but be careful! While the thesaurus can help you out of a vocabulary rut by tapping into the vast universe of words, danger lurks around this particular corner. Blindly trusting the electronic thesaurus of your word processing program to provide correct synonyms can lead to embarrassment and, worse, writing something that's actually incorrect. Technology does not differentiate between the finer nuances of many English words and may lead you, as one poor fellow did long ago, to look up the word "good" and then describe a tasty doughnut as benevolent. Use a thesaurus wisely and infrequently.

We recommend restructuring your sentence as a better fix. Saying something in a different way often inspires fresh insight. Follow these three steps to reorganize your thoughts and spark your creativity:

  1. Circle the key words and phrases in your sentence; do not include more than one word that has the same meaning.
  2. Choose the strongest circled idea to place at the beginning of your new sentence.
  3. Revise the sentence so that it contains your essential thoughts (the ones you circled), but eliminates repetition.

Tried and true business editing and proofreading fixes

Once you have exhausted the above possibilities, it's time to get serious about the problem. Begin by writing an outline of your intended argument; be sure to include your main idea, supporting evidence, and key analysis. Now, read over your outline and cross out any ideas that do not relate to it. You are less likely to be redundant if you stick to the point. Next, expand your basic ideas by adding new commentary. This involves questioning the evidence and plumbing the depths of potential responses. For example, rather than repeating the word "process" in your discussion of a new business model, ask yourself what the resulting implications will be for your company. This provides an innovative avenue for exploration that will result in original ideas.

Combining the approaches for a concise business document

Effective business writing generally requires using all of these techniques to some degree. Consider the following example:

First Draft

According to the research found in business-related literature, many companies and firms cite cost savings and reducing spending as their most important goals in preparation for a more economically viable future. Company executives and managers demand their employees cut back on excessive spending and waste so that the company can become more competitive in the world of business.

Revised Draft

According to the literature, many companies cite cost savings as their primary goal. Employees are urged to reduce waste so companies can increase competitiveness.

As you become familiar with ways to avoid redundancies, they will turn up in your business writing less frequently. Apply these tools to your next business document to avoid making readers see red. Still feel like you're repeating yourself? Then submit your document to one of our business editors for a thorough evaluation.

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