TautologyTautology is the needless repetition of a single concept.
Easy Examples of Tautology
- He is a single bachelor. (Bachelors are always single.)
- The vote was totally unanimous. (The word totally doesn't add anything.)
- He was in a three-way love triangle. (The word three-way doesn't add anything.)
- At that moment in time, the stars dimmed. (It's always a moment in time.)
Real-Life Examples of Tautology
- Many people's commute back and forth to work requires them to spend hours behind the wheel each day. (The words back and forth don't add anything.)
- That's one of the great advantages of age…you can throw temper tantrums, and nobody minds. (Author James Lee Burke) (The word temper doesn't add anything.)
- I asked the question, "Will I ever perform again?" (Musician Brian Harvey) (The words the question could be removed, but the result would be less empathic.)
- Everyone is the sum total of past experiences. A character doesn't just spring to life at age thirty. (Writer Kelley Armstrong) (The words total and past could be removed, but sum total and past experiences are set terms.)
- Of course, everybody's thinking evolves over time. (Ethiopian politician Meles Zenawi) (The words over time could be removed, but the emphasis on time would be lost.)
- He placed the chicken on the so-called "clean" surface.
- His so-called "mates" left him in the tree.
Why Should I Care about Tautology?Spotting tautology is useful for eliminating redundant words, which will not only reduce your word count but also portray you as a clear thinker. Here are some tautological terms that could be shortened safely (i.e., with no loss of meaning):
- She died of a fatal dose of heroin. (Argument For: As she died, you don't need the word fatal.
- Present a short summary. (Argument For: As a summary is always short, you don't need the word short.
- Enter your PIN number in the ATM machine. (Argument For: You don't need the word number after PIN (N = number) or the word machine after ATM (M = machine).
Argument Against: She might have died from a non-fatal dose, i.e., one that wouldn't kill most people.)
Argument Against: A summary is not always short.)
Argument Against: PIN and ATM have become standalone terms. It's helpful to include number and machine for clarity.)