Redundancy: An Excessive, Oppressive, Pervasive Disease

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My guest today is editor and author, Denise Loock. Denise shares with us one of her Boot Camp posts on redundancies. At the end of her post, you’ll find more information about her editing services and devotional books.


“Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.” That’s #47 in William Safire’s entertaining and enlightening book, Fumblerules. The principle is simple, but its mastery elusive, even for seasoned writers and editors.

image by Comfreak

Too often we’re unaware of the redundancies that lurk undetected in our sentences. Did you catch the needless repetition in the previous sentence? Using unaware and undetected with lurk is redundant. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, lurk means “to lie in ambush, to be hidden but capable of being discovered.” I should have written this: redundancies lurk in our sentences. Use precise verbs.

A devotion in the December 2014 edition of a daily devotional magazine was titled “Free Gift.” Again, Merriam-Webster exposes the redundancy. By definition, a gift is “transferred … without compensation.” If it isn’t, the writer should use reward, bribe or exchange. Use precise nouns.

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In a book written by a well-known author, I came across “unsuspected surprises.” By definition, a surprise is “something unexpected or astonishing.” The fraternal twin of unsuspected surprises is unexpected surprises. Avoid both. And use a dictionary.

Sir Ernest Gowers provides some helpful advice in The Complete Plain Words. And no, helpful advice isn’t redundant. Haven’t we all received plenty of unhelpful advice? Back to Gowers:

“Cultivate the habit of reserving adjectives and adverbs to make your meaning more precise, and suspect those that you find yourself using to make it more emphatic. Use adjectives to denote kind rather than degree … economic crisis or a military disaster … [not] acute crisis or a terrible disaster.”

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Recently, I almost used actual proof in a Facebook post. See what I mean? Redundancy is a virus that can threaten the health of any sentence. (Check the definition of virus, and you’ll realize that adding an adjective like destructive or pernicious would be redundant.)

Here’s your assignment this week: Examine a page of your work in progress, sentence by sentence. Probe every noun and verb, checking for preciseness. Interrogate every modifier: what value does it add to the sentence? Scrutinize every word under the light of its dictionary definition.

Search for redundancies like these:

Basic necessities

Filled up

Up above


Close proximity

Gave away

Future plans

Reflect back

And while you’re editing, reduce phrases like these to one word:

Made a decision

Faced a need

Have the opportunity to see

Is in need of

Look forward to the future

Rid your writing of redundancies. Click to Tweet.

What is your favorite example of a redundancy? 

Denise Loock is an editor, writer, and speaker. As a book editor, she uses her twenty-nine years of experience as an English teacher to help Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas produce high quality, engaging inspirational fiction and nonfiction books. As a freelance editor, she helps published and unpublished writers create clean, concise, and compelling manuscripts that will attract publishers and intrigue readers.


Denise also shares with others the joy of studying God’s Word through the website she founded, She is the author of two devotional books that highlight the scriptural truths of classic hymns and gospel songs, Open Your Hymnal and Open Your Hymnal Again. Contact her at

A First-Time Boxed-Set Experience

Today, I share my experience in writing for the e-book Valentine’s Day collection, Cooking Up Kisses. My book, The Invisible Woman in a Red Dress, is one of five scrumptious romance novellas that release today as a set for $0.99!

I never dreamed I’d be part of a collection. Then in August 2017, after I had two published romances, award-winning author Mary Manners contacted me. She invited me to join her and three other seasoned authors in writing Valentine’s Day romance novellas for a collection. Stories were due January 1, 2018.


What an opportunity! But could slowpoke writer Zoe complete a romance novella, arrange for an editor, and have a cover designed in four months? I had a non-fiction manuscript to finish by October 2017 and another romance releasing in 2017 or 2018 that would require promotion.

I told Mary I’d pray about her marvelous offer. She encouraged me to do so. During the following week, I wrestled with taking on more than I could deliver. My husband offered his opinion. If God called me to write, why wouldn’t I accept this excellent offer? He was right.


Now trusting God, an idea germinated. I’d write a story that takes place in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains. Circumstances in my heroine’s childhood would cause her to feel invisible most of her life. I’d draw feelings from my Coast Guard brat days, when every two or three years, I was forced to break into new social cliques.

With the story and my excitement brewing, I calculated I’d have 78 of 122 days to work on the book. I mapped my heroine’s journey and spread the plot points and days for other tasks over 78 days. If I disciplined myself, I could complete the book. With trembling fingers, I emailed Mary my acceptance.


During the four months, we authors communicated in a Facebook group—our questions, progress, and covers. Working with these ladies was fun.



One challenge was creating a delectable sweet, whose recipe I’d insert at the end of my novella. I love cranberry scones. So, I printed several recipes and tinkered with the ingredients and measurements. To ensure the scones were as tasty as my heroine thought, I baked Miss Mildred’s version of cranberry scones twice. Yum.

The collection required we write a romantic dinner. I enjoyed brainstorming a dinner I think is unusual and unique.


We voted on a collection title, then designer Delia created three mock-ups for the set’s cover. We chose the above Cooking Up Kisses cover. If you’re cooking up kisses, you gotta have a kiss, right?

I worked all New Year’s Day and submitted my manuscript at 6 PM, making my deadline.

To get a taste of each book, read the short blurbs on Amazon.

The story behind a boxed set of romance novellas. Click to tweet.

What do you like about boxed sets?

If you’re interested in creating a box set, read Marion Ueckermann’s excellent and detailed post,”Secrets to Creating a Successful Box Set—Inside and Out.

Self-Editing Awkward Sentences

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Even though I write blog posts about writing, I make the mistakes I blog about. One problem my editors have noted is awkward sentences.

In editing the sentences, I’ve learned

  • ways a writer might find these sentences,
  • what can cause awkward sentences,
  • and that sometimes the awkwardness is subtle and the writer can’t see or hear it.

Find Awkward Sentences During Self-Editing

1. Listen to an automated reader read your chapters. For me, the automated reader’s expressionless voice makes strange wording jump out.

2. Let your chapter sit for a while. After I let mine sit for at least two weeks, I become more like a reader. The sentences are less familiar to me, and I can spot awkward constructions.

3. Find a good critique group or partner. No matter how often I go through my chapter, I’ll have a sentence that will appear awkward to others. My critique partner will usually mark the sentence(s).

4. Hire an editor within your means. When I was in a situation in which I knew a professional editor wouldn’t be available, I hired one.

Causes of Awkward Sentences

image by rkit

1.The writer tries to express too much in one sentence. Break the sentence into two or more sentences and tighten them.


Jim’s floor plan sounded acceptable, so he’d go with Jim to see his house, and if the place measured up to what Jim described, maybe he’d make him an offer if he felt he didn’t need an agent.


Jim’s floor plan sounded acceptable, so he’d go with Jim to see his house. If the place measured up to what Jim described, he might make an offer without involving an agent.

2. The second half of a sentence doesn’t follow from the first.


He was going crazy, but his mother liked Elsie’s friendliness.


Elsie’s constant chatter drove him crazy, but his mother liked the girl’s friendliness.

3. A phrase doesn’t represent the best description of an action. Restate the sentence using a concrete verb.


She approached Jacob without looking at the creep.

(Without looking at was a phrase I used that an editor marked as awkward. I don’t think I’d have recognized its awkwardness without someone’s help.)


As she approached Jacob, she looked away from the creep. (Context lets us know Jacob is the creep)

4. Necessary information is omitted. Spell out everything that needs to be said.


At his rate of offers, her blood pressure might register normal by the end of the day.


Thanks to all his offers to help her, her blood pressure might register normal by the end of the day.

5. Unnecessary information is included. Remove words that confuse the meaning of a sentence.


The other houses looked the same with their fenced cow pastures and harvested cornfields groomed behind them.


The other houses looked the same with their fenced cow pastures and harvested cornfields behind them.

Ways to find and fix awkward sentences. Click to tweet.

What methods do you use to edit your work?

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Candace Parks lives a passionless life in Richmond, Virginia. The computer programmer returns to the empty family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to evaluate her job, faith, and boyfriend. Her high school crush, star football player and prom king Trigg Alderman, is in Twisty Creek visiting his grandmother who lives next door. He doesn’t recognize Candace at first and remembers little about her. He’s not alone. 

Candace’s rekindled attraction to Trigg adds unexpected complications to finding her passions. Sorting her life out? How about nothing of the sort!


Alana Mulvaney’s life is in a holding pattern. Consumed by day-to-day operations of the family business, Alana has no time for fun or romance. But a little fun and a whole lot of romance is just what Alana’s sisters have in mind when they learn childhood friend Donovan O’Reilly has returned to town.
Donovan O’Reilly has loved Alana Mulvaney since he moved in next door to her at the age of five. But he broke her heart when he was forced to leave town, and now that he’s returned home to Winding Ridge he has a second chance to prove himself. But is it too late to earn her trust…and her love…again?


Toni Littlebird believes that when she meets the man God created for her, she’ll know—and she’ll love him in that very moment.
But then Dax Hendrick roars into Hummingbird Hollow on a noisy, crippled Harley, stinking up the air and chasing away her beloved hummingbirds. One look into the intruder’s eyes and her heart sinks. He’s “The One.” She’d been right about knowing, but wrong about something far more important: She will never love this man!


Cara Peyton is content with her life, her trendy Baltimore bookshop is perfect for her. But when her ex turns up to remodel the store, asking for a second chance, she’s torn and unsure about risking her heart again. Can he convince her to trust him, and God, before the job is finished?


Another Valentine’s Day and Quinn Randolph prefers to spend it with her sweet rescue lab. Who needs men and their broken promises? Especially Pierce Karson’s! Years ago, his desertion shattered her. Now he’s trying to steal the property she targeted to expand her florist shop! Pierce only wants to belong…and for Quinn to choose him. His Valentine Promise…