Watch What You Write: This page is devoted to defending the English language and encouraging disciplined writing. Our regular contributor will be Adrianne LeMan who will seize on sloppy writing and firmly remind us of the need to write correctly. However, we welcome other contributors. Just send your piece or any comments on what we have published to firstname.lastname@example.org
Listening to BBC Radio 4 yesterday, I heard someone say that there were “various different reasons for…”. In this context, “various” and “different” mean the same thing: they are tautologous.
“Tautology” – which according to the Oxford English Dictionary is the “repetition…of the same statement, word or phrase, or the same idea or statement in other words” – comes sometimes, I imagine, from the speaker or writer trying to emphasise a point: reduce down, instead of reduce; join together, instead of join; mix together, instead of mix; etc.
At other times, it is probably because the speaker or writer doesn’t understand the precise meaning of a word: it is not, for example, correct to say, “raze to the ground”, because the definition of raze is “to destroy completely, to obliterate”; you don’t “revert back” to something, because revert means “to go back”; and you don’t have a “necessary requisite”, because a requisite is “something essential” – and finally, you should never put “in addition” in the same sentence as “also” or “as well”.
Adrianne LeMan ran a UK company for many years with a team that wrote and edited annual reports, websites, brochures, etc, for a wide range of major companies. She now works as a freelance writer/editor – again assisting major companies. She is interested in words: their use, and misuse, the way they are spelled and the way they look. Adrianne also keeps a close eye on the use, and misuse, of language, which she feels should be clear and to the point.