Delete redundancies for tighter manuscript

Among the most common mistakes I see when editing novice writers’ manuscripts is the use of redundant words. A redundancy exists when the modifying words aren’t needed because they say exactly what the word being modified implies. For example, “rich heiress” is redundant as an heiress by definition is rich.

Writer Samuel Delaney recommends a simple test to see if you’ve got a redundancy in your writing. First, replace the modifier with its antonym. So if you had the phrase “rich heiress,” you’d replace “rich” with “poor” to get “poor heiress.” If this new phrase is contradictory or ridiculous sounding, you probably have a redundancy.

Of course, there is an outside chance that given the context of your story, you might write “poor heiress” – for example, you could be writing tongue-in-cheek that the young woman has inherited a bankrupt estate. But more often than not, this isn’t the case.

Fortunately, redundancies are easy to fix. Simply delete the modifier. Just write “heiress.”