(As both author and editor, this post is part of the writing tips and helpful thoughts from an editor that you might find useful in your own writing!)
Being redundant or repetitive in your writing can really bog down your readers’ ease-of-reading, and it can also make your story downright boring. The repetition itself becomes distracting, and you never want to take your readers’ attention off the story itself and instead make them focus on the mechanics.
You want them to see the picture, not the way it was made.
1) Repetition of Words
Be careful how often you use the same word inside of a paragraph, and especially inside of a sentence, with the exception of pronouns and basic sentence structure words like “the” or “and.”
“They walked carefully down the hallway, which was dimly lit. Once at the end of the hallway, they paused to look around. Was it this hallway or the other hallway?“
Do you see what I mean? By the time you reach the end of the paragraph, the word ‘hallway’ isn’t making as much sense as it had at the beginning!
2) Repetition of Names
This one is especially rough in dialogue, but it affects the exposition as well. If your character’s name is Bob, you want to make sure you don’t use that name for every single reference.
“Bob walked carefully down the hallway, which was dimly lit. Once at the end of the hall, Bob paused to look around. Bob wondered, was it this one or the other one?“
Trade out for pronouns usually, but always think outside the box for ways you can keep it lively!
Dialogue is particularly tricky, though.
“What do you think about this, Bob?”
“Well, I don’t know, Dave. What do you think?”
“I think it’s a good idea, Bob.”
“I’m glad for that, Dave.”
When you have conversations in “real life,” do you say your listener’s name in every sentence? Chances are not. Most people don’t.
As I’ve written about before, read-flow can be bogged down by other sorts of excess words. There’s the “as opposed to what” rule that I wrote about previously, but here are some other examples I’ve come across during editing that I’m going to share and share what parts are redundant.
“always in a state of constant“
Redundancy: “Always” and “constant” are saying the same thing.
“at least fifteen feet or so“
Redundancy: The “or so” is implied by “at least.”
“the sight she was seeing“
Redundancy: If it’s a sight, we already know she’s seeing it.
“bellow a roar“
Redundancy: ‘Bellow’ and ‘roar’ are their own highly-descriptive verbs.
“saw the monster in front of him“
Redundancy: Unless it’s stated that this person has eyes in the back of their head or are looking in a mirror, they can generally only see what’s in front of them. (Maybe to the side, but “saw the monster” is still enough for a reader.)
“made her feel so happy“
Redundancy: Happy is a feeling, so something can just make you happy.
“said in agreement“
Redundancy: Agreement can be an act, as in “he agreed.”
4) In Conclusion…
Repetition can come in many forms, and by keeping it to a minimum, you can really improve your writing’s readability!