Superfluous Redundancies That Writers Can Eradicate Completely

A brief summary of stock expressions and timeworn clichés that are past overdue for entire elimination — well, for some but not all

Barry Lyons
6 min readFeb 10, 2021

First and foremost, I’m fascinated by common expressions that contain superfluous words. No, I don’t mean things like “She felt that her heart was breaking” where “that” isn’t needed. After all, it wouldn’t be wrong to keep “that” in the sentence (and it isn’t superfluous either, as it doesn’t convey a redundancy). I’m referring to extra words that aren’t needed (but aren’t necessarily wrong). Consider the following:

  • “It’s snowing outside.” Where else would it be snowing?
  • “I thought to myself” No one else can think for you.
  • “He had a smile on her face.” Where else would a smile be?

Ben Yagoda, in a response to my inquiry on this matter, has coined a great expression: “Benign emphatic redundancy.” Two that he cited are “stand up” and “Raid Kills Bugs Dead.” That first one is great. After all, how else is a person going to stand? “Stand sideways, please.” Good luck with that. As for the Raid example, I’ve no doubt that the marketing execs at S. C. Johnson & Son knew the expression had a redundancy but went with it anyway as…

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Barry Lyons

Not a fan of sports or religion. I guess that makes me a bad American.