ACT and SAT Writing Tips: Repetitively Redundant Expressions

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Redundancy, in which Redundantunnecessary repetition detracts from a sentence, can occur on both the English test of the ACT and the Writing & Language section of the SAT.  One type of redundant phrase you may encounter happens when a word is used to modify another word that is defined by the first word. Did you spot the redundant expression in our blog title? If not, this blog's for you!

Consider an example of a redundant expression:

      terrible disaster

Isn’t a disaster by definition terrible? You don’t hear of fantastic disasters, or pretty good disasters, or even mediocre disasters. They are all terrible! So it would be a terrible mistake to allow this redundant expression to go uncorrected on the ACT and SAT.

Beware of these other redundant expressions: 

Five Minutes to a Higher Score   Redundant Expressions in SAT Writing resized 600

Unfortunately, redundant expressions will not always be situated next to each other in a sentence:

Despite the increase in positive feedback, the plummeting attendance figures have fallen so low that the owner closed the speedway.    [Incorrect]

In this sentence, the word plummeting has already established that the figures have fallen and are low, so it is redundant to mention this again. The sentence must be edited:

Despite the increase in positive feedback, the plummeting attendance figures caused the owner to close the speedway.    [Correct]

While you may not spot redundancy on your first reading of a passage, the ACT and SAT format provides answer choices so that you can analyze what is different about each answer choice compared to the original phrasing. If one of the answer choices has deleted words, determine whether those words were necessary or redundant.

Can you now spot the error in the title of this blog? It's "repetitively redundant." The very definition of "redundant" is "unnecessary repetition," so a phrase like this one can be corrected on the ACT and the SAT.

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Photo: "Super Redundant Hyperbole," courtesy of jlwelsh