Writing Tip Wednesday: Repetition (and Fear of Hypocrisy)

I’m not going to lie—posting writing advice always makes me nervous. Inevitably, I’ll do exactly what I’m telling people NOT to do. If you catch me in the midst of my hypocrisy, feel free to let me know (please be nice) and (to quote my dad), do as I say, not as I do.

An example of hypocrisy.

On to this week’s writing tip . . .

Repetition can be a useful tool, but don’t use it unless it makes your writing easier to follow or you’re trying to make a point. Here are a few tips to help you avoid the kind that can hurt your writing.

Don’t start all of your sentences (or paragraphs) with the same word unless you have a good reason. For example, every item in this list starts with a “don’t” because I want them to be memorable, I want it to be obvious they go together, and it makes the list easier to follow.

Don’t use the same word every time when there are other words that mean the same thing. But be careful—sometimes words have connotations that might give your reader ideas you weren’t trying to convey.

Don’t be redundant. If you already said something, don’t say it again using different words. (Bonus: this helps you cut unnecessary words.)

Sometimes there’s only one word or phrase you can use to describe what you’re writing about. If that’s the case, get creative to avoid overusing it. Pronouns can be your friend (though you shouldn’t overuse them, either). And changing your sentence structure can help too.