Pleonasms: Words That Don't Need To Be Together : Memmos Standards & Practices Editor Mark Memmott writes occasional notes about the issues journalists encounter and the way NPR handles them. They often expand on topics covered in the Ethics Handbook.
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Pleonasms: Words That Don't Need To Be Together

Here's a word that a search indicates may never have been said on NPR: "pleonasm."

But we and other news outlets put pleonasms on the air and on the Web every day.

What is a pleonasm?

"The use of more words than are necessary for the expression of an idea; redundancy."

Some examples:

There's been a "mass exodus" of Syrians.

An "exodus" is the departure of a large, massive group.

"What I did was legally permitted, first and foremost," says Hillary Clinton.

"Foremost" means "first in place or time."

Homes that were in the path of a wildfire were "completely destroyed."

If they were destroyed, enough's been said.

John McIntyre, the "veteran drudge" at the Baltimore Sun, has collected pleonasms, here and here.

A few of the more common:

– "Safe haven."

– "Final results."

– "Advance planning."

You can probably think of many more.

There are times when pleonasms are useful – for instance, when you want to make sure listeners really, really, really understand the point you're making. Also, they are common expressions and we do try to be conversational.

But, they annoy some listeners, might add nothing to your story and take up space when you may be fighting to squeeze in valuable information. Feel free to cut them.

Related post: "Do You Suffer From RAS Syndrome?"