Misc.: Tautologies

February 21, 2008: Issue 227

Watch out for tautologies, sentences that basically say “up is up” or “blue is blue.” Such truisms often hide under piles of modifiers.

Take this sentence:
A sleek, handy pot filler smartly placed in the green marble-topped island fills oversize pasta pots quickly without forcing the cook to lug ungainly pans of water.

Strip it down to subject, verb, and object, and you get this:
A pot filler fills pots.

To avoid this problem, start with the simplest possible sentence—then add modifiers judiciously.

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