While repetition can be a beautiful thing, it can also be redundant. And redundancy, in almost any context, is not good. That which is redundant is not needed, is not necessary, is not required, right?

So why clutter a presentation or document with optional junk?


Expressions of various sorts can creep into everyday language and become an unconscious part of our speech, a part that sometimes neither speaker nor listener even hears. Many such phrases comprise redundant words, words that take up space and time but add no meaning. In oral as well as written discourse, every word needs to count, to have meaning, function, and purpose. Redundancy is the verbal equivalent of empty calories.

What are some of these expressions?

These qualify:

  • Daily basis
  • New innovation
  • At this point in time
  • A more superior product
  • Advance planning
  • Different kinds
  • Each and every
  • Difficult dilemma
  • Past experience
  • Exact same
  • Evolve over time
  • Added bonus
  • Basic fundamentals

In some redundant phrases, the words carry the same meaning—"each and every," for example, or "different kinds." In others they create a nonexistent and illogical condition: Isn't every surprise unexpected? Isn't a dilemma by definition difficult and an innovation new? And "the reason is because" makes an illogical loop as well; "reason" is "cause" (not that grammar is necessarily logical).


Other redundancies occur because of the frequency with which a particular expression is used, both individually and collectively. A presenter who uses the phrase "at the end of the day" five times in a 96–word comment (true story) has spent almost a third of her time uttering a phrase as meaningless as any filler. What may be just as bad is that she sounds like everyone who repeats her overused expression. When it comes to clichés, you never talk alone.

When audience members hear a speaker use a word or phrase too often, they tune out. When readers attempt to understand a document held together by a handful of buzzwords, they cannot find the intended meaning. And when a mass of people glom on to the same set of words, it doesn't take long for most of them to quit listening … or to begin using the redundant terms instead of creating unique expressions of their thoughts. Or worse yet, have colleagues create a pool on how many times you'll say your favorite phrase (true story).

Do any of these sound overly familiar?

  • Bottom line
  • Move the needle
  • Drill down
  • Low-hanging fruit
  • Granular
  • The nature of the beast
  • Push the envelope
  • It is what it is
  • Aha! Moment
  • 30,000 foot view
  • Leverage
  • Reach out

If they do, move the needle, drill down, push the envelope, reach for an Aha! Moment. That's the nature of this beast.

We humans attend best to the clear and original—the startling but apt image, the evocative and appropriate word or example. Redundancy is what it is: low-hanging fruit. Scrap it.