The Department of Redundancy Department

December 21st, 2007 by Bob Bly

A radio commercial for a financial services firm talked about how their investment advisors could help ensure financial security for “older senior citizen folks.”

Are there younger senior citizens? Are there citizens who are not folks? Why not just say “senior citizens”?

This may seem a small point. But everyone today talks about how no one reads long copy or has time to read. Redundancies add needless words and waste the reader’s time.

A few more: armed gunman … living survivors … RAM memory … foreign imports … past history … stupid idiot … new innovation … consensus of opinion … add together.

Any others you can think of?

And does avoiding redundancies matter in writing? What’s your personal opinion? Oops, I mean, what’s your opinion?

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14 responses about “The Department of Redundancy Department”

  1. Michael said:

    I think the redundancies are probably more accepted in spoken conversation rather than in print. In print, they tend to stick out. I still have a problem with free gift, but I realize that in our industry, including “free” helps drive home the message.

    As for “older senior citizen folks,” I’m wondering if the financial services firm was trying to say that they are focusing on senior citizens who are in their 80s (older senior citizens) as opposed to those who are early senior citizens (people 55 and around that age). I don’t really dig the word “folks.” Using folks sounds kind of patronizing to me, but maybe that’s just me.

    The only redundancy I can think of off the top of my mind is uses of “…in the future,” e.g., “our company rep will contact you in the future…”

  2. Jodi Kaplan said:

    The only redundancy I can think of right now is GUI interface. And, yes I think avoiding them is important.

  3. Philip McLean said:

    Michael, I understand that the direct mail people keep testing “free gift” against “gift” or “free”, and “free gift” gets better response.

  4. Robert Rosenthal said:

    “Older senior citizen folks” makes the advertiser sound dumb. Some consumers are reluctant to buy from dumb advertisers. Redundancy could be expensive.

    “Free gift” works because “free” is the most important word in advertising.

  5. Stacey Mathis, Copywriter for the Parent Market said:

    Some of my favorites are:

    -advance planning
    -basic fundamentals
    -commute back and forth
    -close proxmity

  6. Stacey Mathis, Copywriter for the Parent Market said:

    OOps! Proximity.

  7. Gratis Forum said:

    Agree, you need to get high ranking on “free”

  8. Ken said:

    I think it matters in writing. It doesn’t add anything in terms of impact, but it can obviously be seen as a negative by those who are paying attention.

  9. Michael said:

    Philip: Right. I agree that using “free” with “gift” gets a better response. My mind still rebels against it because it seems redundant…but I still use it. : )

  10. Richard Armstrong said:

    hey, dude, love the new blog format!

  11. Susan said:

    Hmm, sounds like some of the essays I wrote in high school when I had no clue what to say. I needed something to fill up that page. :)

  12. Jim Furr said:

    Examples?

    “deja-vou all over again”

    “If you don’t know where you are going,
    you might not get there”

    “I would never belong to a club
    that would have me as a member”

    I like “circular reasoning” statements like the last two since they tweak the brain more than
    redundant words.

    :)

  13. Alan M said:

    This particular redundancy is probably unintended, but there are times when something like this can work. If it furthers the brand personality, sounds more conversational and plausible, etc.

  14. games people play song said:

    i just thought that queen latifah is one of the best comedians out there, she is really funny’

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