Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Writing Mechanics: Redundant Modifiers and Other Disasters

Many of you know I'm in the middle of revisions and that I do a lot of critiquing for my talented CPs and other writer friends. Thus, I am often in Critical Reading Mode. 

Pitifully sick in bed last week, a few high buzz ARCs patiently waiting on my bedside table, I decided to back away from my computer, rest and read for pleasure. I hoped to be swept away, transported from my sickbed and lumpy Lola-Ebola cough, lost in a fictional world. 

I made it 30 pages through the first ARC before I gave up. Nearly every paragraph riddled with redundant modifiers and mechanical glitches that pulled me out of the story. (which got me thinkin' about this here post) 0_o

The second book, Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard, thankfully was a pleasure to read.  (Like Mandarin released yesterday, March 8th, and is now available.)

Mostly I spent the rest of my germ-infested recovery re-watching all 3 seasons of Veronica Mars. 
I love you, Logan.

Sick never felt so good. 

Oops. Digression and me, we're BFFs. 

Yeah, so where was I? 

Ah, yes, A Writing Mechanics post. 

Today, I will focus on Redundant Modifiers and their cousins.

And, hey, we're ALL guilty of using them.  I'm no grammar expert. I'm not an expert of anything. (well, I'm fantastic at eating nachos) So I figured writing this up might help me, and sharing it might help you. 

Here we go.

Write tight, economically, we're told. "Omit needless words". Search out the adverbs and delete. Most of us are crystal clear on the adverb abuse thing. 

And that's great, but there's more to word economics than avoiding adverbs.

Redundant modifiers and redundant pairings and categories are often words we think are driving a point home. Sometimes we use them because of familiarity with the combinations, thus we use them out of habit. Sometimes we think we're writing pretty description. 

Examples of common redundant modifiers:

  • free gift
  • sudden crisis
  • basic fundamentals
  • climb up
  • actual fact
  • past memories
  • final (or ultimate) outcome
  • terrible tragedy
  • future plan
  • future goals
  • hesitate for a moment
  • consensus of opinion
  • important essentials
  • honest truth
  • end result
  • personal beliefs
  • start over again
  • past history
  • continue on
  • short in stature
  • heavy in weight
  • large in size
  • shiny (or odd, etc) in appearance
  • revolve around
  • each and every
  • any and all
  • one and only
  • completely finish
  • tentatively suggest
  • connected together
  • prove conclusively
  • annoyingly bothersome
  • tactful diplomacy
  • time schedule
  • successful victory

 We've all used them and/or others like them. I hope this (incomplete) list helps you.

If you are looking for help with Showing vs. Telling, visit my post: 
Writing Mechanics Show vs Tell

Next week we'll talk metaphors! 

How's YOUR writing going? 




Lisa said...

I love a list such as this which I will print and refer to when I'm revising. So thank you for this.

Now I have to go read Show v. Tell.


Libby said...

I don't think I use redundant modifiers, but then again, I didn't know I abused adverbs until recently. Great post! Always good to know what to keep an eye on while editing.

Lynn Andrade said...

I'm doing well avoiding the redundant modifiers. Still, it's always good to remind oneself things to avoid. :D

Elizabeth Briggs said...

Ooh nice list. I will have to watch out for these in my writing.

Carol Riggs said...

Hi Lola! Whew, glad to see I don't use any from that list. Or if I do, it's incredibly infrequently. Ha, short in stature and heavy in weight and large in size are very redundant w/in themselves, aren't they? Happy Wednesday!

Teri Anne Stanley said...

I have been on a Watch Out for Redundant Modifier kick lately, and it's cousin (okay, I can't think what to call it, but here's the example:) "Eyes looking".
Of course, that distracts me from avoiding adverbs. Thank heavens for editing-happy crit partners!

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Lola - love the way you handled the book details - in fact I just blogged about this today:) Great post - I'm grammatically challenged so I take any of it I can get!

Melissa Bradley said...

OMG am I ever guilty of some of these. Thankfully most of them get caught in the rewrites, but a few sneak through sometimes. Hope you are feeling better soon.

Sara McClung ♥ said...

First of all, ah... Veronica Mars. There's NOTHING BETTER to watch when you're sick. Or, you know... whenever :) #teamloganisfreakingawesomandhotandiwilllovehimforever

I totally am guilty of using some of those on the list, but I TRY to catch myself. And I have one minor character in my WIP who uses them frequently in her dialogue (but she's... not the brightest... ha)

So here's my question--what if you're trying to explain something and you have to start over--AGAIN! (Like, for the third time...)

Melissa said...

I...never thought of these! Yikes. I'm going to have to go check my MS now.... AWKWARD!

Sorry that two out of three books failed. But glad one was awesome...and OH! Veronica Mars is AWESOME

Lola Sharp said...

Sara--then it's okay. But, I would italicize it or like what you did above...caps.

Also, a ditzy character might use poor grammar thus it's 'appropriate' usage there as well.


I really have a mad crush on Logan/Jason. He's quirky and angsty.

Also, unrelated, Matthew Goode is hot.

The end.

Jessica Bell said...

Sorry you had such bad luck with the ARCs! Phew, gosh, I was scared for a moment, but thankfully I'm not guity of any on your list :o) Yay! I was sick last week too. Hope you're feeling better!

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i', definitely guilty of using redundant modifiers. I have to catch them on subsequent read-throughs.
More importantly, though, I ALSO just finished watching all 3 VM seasons. I miss logan already. Sniff

Rachel Searles said...

Guilty as charged! I read a chapter of my own last weekend (and a much-revised one at that) and was horrified at how much wordiness was still left. Came home and ordered two boxes of red pens from Amazon.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Great list. I try to weed them out during the second draft but I'm sure I miss some of them.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Great list. I try to weed them out during the second draft but I'm sure I miss some of them.

Happily Cheesy said...

I hate getting bogged down in the details, but I'm a slasher. Had one poetry teacher who taught me the value well. My hubby tells me often how he wishes I wouldn't cut out so much. Hm... Modifiers though? Never missed.

Janet Johnson said...

Let's just say that on a edit where I mostly cut redundancy . . . 13,000 words. *hangs head in shame*

Nicole Zoltack said...

Great list! There's also stand up and nodded his/her head (what else do you nod?)

Laura Howard said...

I do think I use some of those, without being aware of it! When I look at those pairs all listed together, they seem ridiculous, but I KNOW I've used at least a handful...

Rogue Mutt said...

I'm sure I use some of these. What I look for are words like "really" or "just" and excess "thats" that I don't need.

Heather said...

I'm sorry you've been sick! :( And that two out of three of your reads were disappointing, bummer! I'm dying to know what the two were. You'll have to DM me on Twitter!

Linda G. said...

Great post! Something we should look out for in our writing.

And I love Veronica Mars -- I'm working my way through season 2 (again) while TG works his shows in the evenings.

Feel better! :)

Elaine AM Smith said...

This is a useful post - I've printed your list to add to my check list. I'd say I'm not guilty but as I'm a "really," "just" and "little" addict I can't be too careful :D

JEM said...

Oooh, some of these are fightin' words for me! Not that I want to be redundant...Can we talk about revolve around? I get the redundancy, but how would you rewrite this sentence: The topic revolves around a young girl in Mississippi. I know, the real question here is why did I choose a state that's so easy to mistype.

And I echo Heather, I totally want to know which two disappointed you.

Lola Sharp said...

JEM-- I would rewrite the sentence:
The topic involves a young girl in Mississippi.
(or something like that)


Connie said...

I was editing today and found a redundant modifier, which I chided myself for and quickly fixed. (Sadly, I can't remember what it was.)

Old Kitty said...

I stopped volunteering to read ARCs when I realised I was a wuss at being critical even if I truly didn't like the story! LOL!

I love your list of redundant words and am so guilty of using (only ONCE!! lol!) short in stature!! LOL!!! Off i go to hang my head in SHAME!!

Please get better!!!!! And rest, rest, rest!!!

Take care

Melissa Sarno said...

I've been a little sickling too-- which means I haven't had the energy to read (I seem to lack the concentration) but I managed to somehow write 1,000 words that, when I'm better, will probably look like they were written by a crackhead. Thanks for the list of redundant modifiers. It's not something I think about a lot, but I will now! Especially when I'm revising and critiquing :-)

Cherie Reich said...

I hope you feel better!

And, this is a great list. I starred it on my Google Reader. I probably have used some of them in my work, and you're so right. It's important to try get rid of as many of them as possible.

Roberta Walker said...

Thanks for this post! I am rewriting right now, so will need to keep an eye out for these. I'm completely certain I've used a few :)

LTM said...

ooo, I've got Like Mandarin on my TBR list, and I can't wait to read it. very curious about those other two...

I know I've used those redundant modifiers, but I think at times, in dialogue, they can be OK. If they show something about the character speaking.

Just a thought! Get well soon~ :o) <3

Zan Marie said...

Hi, Lola! You have two awards over at my blog. Check it out. ; )

Zan Marie

Alleged Author said...

Great post! I, of course, am guilty of this often. Thank goodness I don't send the pages out before I've eradicated every single cliche and overused modifier!

Julie Hedlund said...

Likewise, a list to come back to when you are in the midst of revising. Thanks!

caterpillar said...

OMG...I use a whole lot of them...thanks for the list...

Jen Daiker said...

Perfect timing!!! I am currently revising and now can print this list off and being my line edits!!

PS - I'm still around, only lurking, today I had time to comment! WOOHOO!

Jemi Fraser said...

Love this list!! I'm pretty sure my characters have climbed up onto things - gonna have to check that out! Thanks :)

Julie Hedlund said...

This is SUCH a great post. Adding it to the "must check" list during revisions. I know I've been guilty of a few of these along the where.

Jamie Burch said...

Thank you for this list and the link to more advice!

Hope you're feeling better, Lola. *Hugs*

Donna Weaver said...

Great post ... and true. We've heard those phrases so often together that it almost seems wrong to separate them.

Meredith said...

How have I never thought of these before? Hang on, I have to go look at my WiP to make sure I don't use these...Also, LOVE Logan. What a fun way to spend your time!

Faith Pray said...

Good list of don'ts! I may have to admit to using "one and only" at least a few times more than only once.

Missed Periods said...

I am sure I am guilty of doubling up sometimes, but when I'm grading, I love correcting redundant modifiers because it's so satisfying to cross out the extra words. Some of my favorites are "twelve o'clock noon" and "reason why."

Question about "climb up": I guess I should know this, but does that mean that "climb down" is incorrect?

Bethany Elizabeth said...

:) Good post, that list made me chuckle.

Madeleine said...

Great post, my mother would applaud you she's hot on grammar.

I think I would use climb up, as one can always climb down, too. ;O)

Jules said...

Dang, you just took half my hillbilly vocabulary away :)
Good post though.
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Matthew MacNish said...

This is great advice. I also love the idea of writing economically.

That sucks that two of three ARCs did not live up to the hype, but I appreciate that you told us the truth, rather than just riding the hype bandwagon.

Bish Denham said...

Excellent list! And yes...sigh...I'm guilty of using a few of them, overly much.

Laurel Garver said...

Great list! You wouldn't believe how often I see this sort of thing even in academic writing. Getting a PhD does not seem to cure the redundancy problem. :-)

Lola Sharp said...

Several of you asked about the climb up vs. climb down.

First, a caveat: I do not claim to be a grammar expert. :)
I'm just a girl who loves to write and play with imaginary worlds and loves words. Pretty words, ugly words, silly words.
(also, rules are made to be broken, but it's best to know the rules and why you want to break them.)

Moving on...

Climb down or climb-down or climbdown as a noun or noun use of a verb phrase means: to retreat, as from an indefensible opinion or position. (like backdown, withdraw, backpedal, eat crow)

To climb is to move UP, ascend. To climb a mountain (or stairs, etc.) means going UP.

One would descend or go down (or come down or get down or walk or hike down) a mountain, or dismount off a horse or vehicle, or the temperature is falling, or alight.

I hope this helps.


Jeigh said...

I am definitely guilty of some of those. I'll be on the lookout for them from now on. Thanks!

Hart Johnson said...

This is EXACTLY where I spend the majority of my word-level editing... getting rid of the reducdancies... I am not horrible about adverbs anymore, but these creep in. It's so interesting though, that books are getting through the publication maze without this stuff being cleaned up.

Scheherazade said...

Thanks for this timely reminder. I'm editing too and this list is going to be right next to my laptop.

Sarah said...

I'll be looking out for those...definitely use climb up a lot. I think they get used in actual conversation/language so it slips into my writing. I tend to write like I speak or the character speaks.
Thanks for the list!

TerryLynnJohnson said...

yay! I'm so glad you liked LIKE MANDARIN. I can't wait for my copy to arrive.
THis is a great list of redundant modifiers!
Hope you feel better.

Ghenet said...

I'm really excited to read LIKE MANDARIN.

Great list! I'm guilty of using a few of these. This is a helpful reminder to make sure I don't anymore!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

So glad you enjoyed Like Mandarin! I'm curious about those other two books, though ;)

Great rundown on redundant modifiers. I guess I've never given them much thought, so I'm sure I do it, too. I'll keep a closer eye on those!

Michael Offutt said...

Thank you for the list. This will be really helpful in my own writing. I found your blog through Rachel Harrie :)

Terry Odell said...

This reminds me so much of my high school Latin teacher who had a thing about redundancies and unnecessary words. A pet peeve (in addition to 'free gift') was too much use of "up." One example he gave was, "face up to the situation". One class clown said, "But what's a bank robber supposed to do. Walk up to the teller and say 'This is a stick.'?"

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Jessica Tate said...

Some of these on your list made me laugh out loud. And yes, I'm probably guilty of some of them but when you put it into perspective, it's quite funny. Feel better soon!

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Fab-u-lous post. And, by the way, I'm so glad you're feeling better. Being sick bites. Love the list. It's so true that we're all prone to those redundant modifiers. That's why revising rocks.

Teresa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ali said...

Lola, You. Are. Awesome.

That is all :)

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

Ah! I've missed you! I took a few months off from blogging and decided just before I took said break to redecorate the blog and some people dissapeared on my roll. I kept wondering where my update was and for some reason it said I wasn't following you??? I would never not follow you, cause I <3 you so I'm sorry for the mix up.
All good points. I caught myself laughing at most of them. I don't think I have this issue, although I might. It's something for me to make note of and check for. Yay for metaphors next week. I avoid them as much as possible. In abundance they make me cringe.
Have a great weekend! And I hope you're feeling better :)

salarsenッ said...

Great list. Sorry you had so much trouble getting through a few of those ARCs. It's tough to receive a book or offer to read it and then not like it or find too much out of sync.

Margo Berendsen said...

What an EXTREMELY valuable list! I am sooooo adding this to my list of writing tips. I will be diving into revision mode soon and first thing I will is do a "search" for any of these words.

Glad you liked Mandarin! I've been thinking about buying this. Now i'm pretty sure I will.

Lola Sharp said...

Thank you, lovely friends, for always taking the time to stop here and leave me such thoughtful comments.

I'm grateful.

Love you,

Kelly said...

Excellent list!!! I love reminders like this complete with examples to scan my ms for!
Thank you, and I hope you are feeling better for the weekend!

Susan Tiner said...

Thank you for the list, I never thought about it before but I'm sure I'm an offender.

The only one I don't quite understand is consensus of opinion. How is that a redundant modifier?

Also, what are CPs and ARCs? I'm a newbie :-).

Lola Sharp said...

Susan, CP stands for Critique Partner(s) and ARC = advance reader copy... MS = manuscript



Jai Joshi said...

Well, I'm glad you were able to make the most of your time recovering from illness. I hope you're feeling a little better now.


Regina said...

Sorry to hear you were sick and also to hear that you didn't have any good literature to pass the time with other than Like Mandarin. I really enjoyed your post and learned a lot from it. I am sure that I have used one or more of the above mentioned modifiers. *hangs head* "I'll do better next time."

Take care of yourself and get to feeling better. *hugs*

Deborah Walker said...

Hi, Lola. Oh my, I probaly do most of these. Great list.

Hannah Kincade said...

hmmm, I couldn't find any on your list that I've used before but now that you put them in my head, I'm probably going to. Why you gotta be a jerk? ;P

Also, love V-Mars! I'm planning on doing a rewatch myself soon. People keep bringing it up and I miss it terribly. I haven't watched it since it ended.

As you know, I finished my first MS so now I'm in editing and revision mode. I'm actually excited to be here but more disbelieving than anything. It's weird to finally have finished something. Very weird.

I've been doing some beta reading and I'm loving it!! I love helping others improve on their writing. And it's helping me become a better editor.

impressink said...

I must admit, I'm guilty of some of those. I'll try to watch myself from now on! ;)

Hope you're feeling better. Now you've got me missing Veronica Mars! Thanks for visiting!

cleemckenzie said...

Oh, no. I never, ever am redundant when saying things twice. How about illegal crimes? I like the sound of that.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I'm sorry you aren't feeling well. :(

Thanks for the wonderful list. You made some great points!

Sonia M said...

I am sure I'm guilty of a lot of these. *blushing* I'll be on the lookout when editing.

Anita said...

Okay, I'm ashamed to say that I've used at least two or three of these in the past. *shamed*

Thanks for the great list! I'm going to print this off and use it for reference in upcoming WIPs.

Deniz Bevan said...

Great post Lola! Darn, I know exactly how you feel - been reading lots lately for review and critique purposes (never mind all the non fiction editing I do at work) and my tolerance is very very low for badly edited stuff. Imagine spelling your own character's name wrong more than once? How can you not catch that?

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Lola Sharp
My name is Lola. (I'm not a showgirl) Yes, L-O-L-A Lola. It's the least of my worries. Let's move on, shall we? This blog is mostly about my misadventures on the journey to publication and beyond. My passion for lush prose, quirky characters, art, music, literature, performing arts and anything creative will be a major theme here. This journey of mine will not always be pretty. Much like rubbernecking a train wreck, I know sometimes you just can't help but look at the carnage that is often my life. So strap on your neck brace, helmet and 5-point harness and come along for the ride! Licentia poetica.
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