Avoid Grammatical Tautologies so You Never Say the Same Thing Twice

Avoid Grammatical Tautologies so You Never Say the Same Thing Twice
Photo: Joe Giddens, Getty Images

Much has been written about the distinction between they’re, their, and there, when to use who vs. whom, and the difference between affect and effect. But tautologies? You’d be forgiven for hearing that word and thinking, Well, what the hell are those?

In grammatical terms, a tautology is the use of different words to say the same thing twice. At the risk of being tautological, it’s a needless repetition or redundancy. If you’re the sort who cares about avoiding common writing mistakes like wordiness, we’ve got you. Here’s a list of some of the most common tautologies you won’t be able to unsee. Apologies in advance.

(Armed) gunman: Well, of course he was armed. He was a gunman.

At that moment (in time): Moment means “a brief moment in time.”

(Hot) water heater: If it’s a heater, the “hot” part is implicit.

Depreciate (in value): If it’s depreciating, it’s going down in value.

First (and foremost): This just says “important” twice.

(Close) proximity: Proximity itself means closeness.

(Over) exaggerate: An exaggeration is a more extreme or dramatic representation of something. The “over” is redundant.

(Dilapidated) ruins: Being dilapidated is part of the ruins’ job description.

Necessary essentials: If they’re necessary, they’re essential. And vice versa. (Same goes for “necessary requirement.”)

In my opinion, (I think): That’s why it’s your opinion. Because you think it.

Adequate (enough): Adequate means “satisfactory or acceptable in quality or quantity;” a.k.a. enough.

Warn (in advance): Warn means to inform someone…in advance.

He made this (with his own hands): If he made it, who else’s hands would he have used?

(Please) RSVP: It’s always nice to say please. But strictly speaking, please isn’t necessary, as RSVP stands for répondre, s’il vous plaît (reply please, in French).

(New) innovation: All innovations are new.

(Temper) tantrum: A tantrum is an uncontrolled emotional outburst; the word temper is unnecessary.

Commute (back and forth): Commuting is the act of transporting oneself to and from work. The back and forth is implied.

Evolve (over time): To evolve is to develop gradually, over time.

PIN number, ATM machine: These have become common parlance, but the “N” in PIN means “number” and the “M” in ATM means “machine.”

It is what it is: Thanks for clearing that up.

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