How ‘duh’ moments undercut a writer’s (and readers’) ‘ah-ha’ moments

Well-intended authors can gunk up their prose with repetition, rather than letting the context do the heavy lifting. Consider these examples.

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How to write without repetition

Here’s a little story:

Bert and Harry are out on the course. Bert gets out of the cart, reaches into his bag, pulls out a club, walks up to his ball and hits it straight and far. Harry says, “Hey, Bert, nice shot.”

Is there any doubt what Bert and Harry are doing? Probably not.

Still, you might see that same episode depicted this way:

Bert and Harry are out on the golf course. Bert gets out of the golf cart, reaches into his golf bag, pulls out a golf club, walks up to his golf ball and hits it straight and far. Harry says, “Hey, Bert, nice golf shot.”

Six mentions of the word “golf.Maybe the first is helpful; the other five definitely are not.

Word counts are like golf scores: The lower the number, the more effective your game is.

Imagine now that you’re writing a blog post about social media marketing. How often must you repeat the phrase “social media marketing” to make your point? Not often, I assure you.

Yet many’s the time I have seen that—or some other topic du jour—hammered home relentlessly. (In one 900-word article I edited, that phrase reared its head a staggering 23 times.)

That sort of reminder does not benefit from repetition; rather, it becomes a cumbersome annoyance.

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