What is pleonasm and why should you avoid it?

Pleonasm, according to Wikipedia, is “the use of more words or word-parts than is necessary for clear expression”. It is sometimes referred to as rhetorical tautology. It is a common literary device in many types of writing, but should be avoided in legal and business writing.

There are numerous examples of pleonastic usage in all languages. Here are some common ones in English:

free gift – can a gift be anything other than free?
safe haven – a haven is by definition a safe place
advance warning – a warning is by definition made in advance
prerecorded – obviously the recording was made beforehand
in two day’s time – is there a difference between two days and two day’s time?
PIN number – PIN stands for Personal Identification Number, so it is redundant to repeat “number”

Generally speaking, in English it is OK to use recognised pleonasms like those listed above. These phrases are so common and widely known that few people worry about them. However, you should avoid creating your own pleonasms. They add to the number of words, complicate your writing and, perhaps most importantly, can sound rather stupid.

Here are some examples that I have come across:

Therefore, in practice the outcome and the length of duration of each case will differ.

Therefore, in practice the outcome and duration of each case will differ.
……………

The main reason for this is the nature of the subject of the Tender and in particular the fact that the costs of fracturing operations are hard to foresee in advance.

The main reason for this is the nature of the subject of the Tender and in particular the fact that the costs of fracturing operations are hard to foresee.
……………

The additionally added paragraph is a standard one required for pursuing an appeal before the National Chamber of Appeals and District Court.

The additional paragraph is a standard one required for pursuing an appeal before the National Chamber of Appeals and District Court.
……………

Please confirm the above information and, if applicable, specify other locations where the Company’s assets are held, including the places of location of the real estate owned by ZEG or held by it in perpetual usufruct.

Please confirm the above information and, if applicable, specify other locations where the Company’s assets are held, including the location of the real estate owned by ZEG or held by it in perpetual usufruct.
……………

In connection with the currently pending tender procedure, we would like to focus on discussing competitive bidding procedures.

In connection with the pending tender procedure, we would like to focus on discussing competitive bidding procedures.

……………

From the date of this Term Sheet until the Closing or the earlier termination of this Term Sheet, all with the goal of preserving unimpaired the value of the Company, the Sellers will ensure the following:

From the date of this Term Sheet until the Closing or the earlier termination of this Term Sheet, all with the goal of preserving the value of the Company, the Sellers will ensure the following:
……………

Furthermore, existing jurisprudence shows, with only one contrary exception, that investing in wind farms is not realising a public aim, and therefore does not fulfil the definition of article 6.

Furthermore, existing jurisprudence shows, with only one exception, that investing in wind farms is not realising a public aim, and therefore does not fulfil the definition of article 6.
……………

The issuer of a blank promissory note usually simultaneously makes at the same time a promissory note declaration, which states the contents of the agreement between the issuer of the promissory note and the acceptant of the promissory note.

The issuer of a blank promissory note usually simultaneously makes a promissory note declaration, which states the contents of the agreement between the issuer of the promissory note and the acceptant of the promissory note.
……………

As we understand from section 6.4.5.1 of the P&P, the only possible way to sell online is through a PWS, which will be provided by the Company and whose content will be already predetermined.

As we understand from section 6.4.5.1 of the P&P, the only possible way to sell online is through a PWS, which will be provided by the Company and whose content will be predetermined.
……………

Therefore, such proceedings at the very end could ultimately lead to the withdrawal of the product from the market.

Therefore, such proceedings could ultimately lead to the withdrawal of the product from the market.
……………

A breach of antitrust provisions is subject to a pecuniary fine of up to 10% of the parties’ turnover in the financial year preceding the imposition of the fine.

A breach of antitrust provisions is subject to a fine of up to 10% of the parties’ turnover in the financial year preceding the imposition of the fine.
……………

And finally my favourite:

Therefore we may assume that the public entity would be required to make a statement after accepting the completed construction works in order to minimise, to the maximum extent possible, the possibility of it making any objections to the repayment of the debt to the bank, even if such objections to the private entity were justified.

Therefore we may assume that the public entity would be required to make a statement after accepting the completed construction works in order to minimise the possibility of it making any objections to the repayment of the debt to the bank, even if such objections to the private entity were justified.

Golden Rule for avoiding pleonasm:

Never use more words than is strictly necessary to convey your meaning!

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