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Discussion Starter #1
Tautology is the needless repetition of a single concept by using different, but repetitious, phrases within a sentence. We see it a lot, especially in modern spoken English although it doesn't always jump out at us.

Simple examples include:

The vote was totally unanimous.
(The word totally doesn't add anything.)

He left at 3 am in the morning.
(The term am means in the morning.)

The reason is because he left during the dinner.
(The word because doesn't add anything.)

In our assessment, we think he is alive.
(In our assessment and we think do the same job.)

This is a new innovation.
(Innovations are always new.)

I've just come across what I believe is a very common tautology. It's from the NASA transcript of the ground-to-air recording from the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon:

Paul Haney @PHMissionControl
Present altitude is now 3,000 miles and we are GO as these three crewmembers are now travelling faster than man has ever flown before.


I see the word "before" as superfluous and an example of tautology. (Am I right?) I'm inclined to correct it, i.e. cut it out. But then, it's what the guy actually said so I'm a bit conflicted.

Would you cut it out, or leave it in and be damned by readers for using bad grammar? Have any blatant examples of tautology struck you recently?

Philip
 

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"Free gift."  If it's a gift, that means it's free. But people have been conditioned to expect the word "free" in front of it.

"Return back."  Even professional news anchors are saying this now! Just "return" is enough.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
jdcore said:
If you're asking whether to cut it from an actual historic quote (is "actual" a tautology there?) I say leave it.
LOL. I wondered the same thing after I typed: "It's what he actually said."

Does "actually" actually add anything?

LOL Just did it again.
 

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There's at least one more in the quote: Present altitude is now... 'Present' and 'now' are doing the same job; either can be cut without any loss of meaning. Arguably, the 'now' later in the quote could also go.
 
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Every word adds something. It adds style, inflection, definition, perspective. Maybe its so subtle you don't notice.

Everyone of those I felt the extra words change something.

Heres a made up example for you:

'Believe it or not, I'm feeling hungry.'

"LOL. Doesn't matter whether we believe it or not. Cut that. 'Feeling hungry'. What else is hungry? It's a feeling isn't it? So really I'm hungry is correct. But seriously, what is I'm. I am. What does 'am' mean? How does that add to this? No. 'I hungry' is more appropriate. But wait - who else would be hungry? You would as in 'I'. But we already know that. So just - "hungry". ... ....

.... Nope 'hungry's' got to go. How about - "MMMmmmh" Yes. I feel so much better now."

Keep going..??

"Well, in Harry Potter there's a boy who finds out he's a wizard and then he goes to a school and faces a bunch of more powerful wizards and then he fights light against dark. "

Ppfffffffft.

Why write a book anyway? It's all summed up right there.

Yeah.

It's not just the words you use.

It's how you say them.

Something that is "totally fine"

and "fine"

Isn't the same. 8)

edited. PM me if you have any questions. --Betsy
 

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Philip, 
Exact quote, best to leave it. 
Note the Apollo missions had redundancies on top of redundancies to keep the guys safe.  (Hopefully)
Looking forward to your new book provided you leave the annoying Brit out of it.    :)
 

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Now I know what to call it.  I often catch myself saying "the sky above" or "the dirt beneath his feet."  Where else would the sky or dirt be?
 

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I don't mind the phrase "_________er than ever before." Yeah, it's got some redundancy, but it's an established idiom and has a nice sound. On the other hand, I find "present" and "now" redundant to the point of obvious error. Unless there's something I don't understand about the mission's rocket stages, the structure "we are GO as these three crewmembers are now travelling faster" is weird. It appears to say that the mission is on because the crewmembers are traveling faster than anyone has ever traveled before, but in fact the reverse is true: the crewmembers are traveling faster than anyone has ever traveled before because the mission was launched. If the mission weren't "GO," they'd be still be sitting on the pad, eh? Comma + "and" instead of "as" would solve the problem, removing the suggestion of cause-and-effect.

Shane is right that these issues help create the sentence's style: wordy, bureaucratic, confusing. If that's what NASA was going for, great, but I have a feeling it wasn't. Famous utterances from the past aren't always perfect. In fact, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" is one of the most famous flubs around. It was supposed to be "one small step for A man," which actually makes sense.
 

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Deke said:
Now I know what to call it. I often catch myself saying "the sky above" or "the dirt beneath his feet." Where else would the sky or dirt be?
hmmm good point. Although I could see the dirt beneath his feet not to be so bad because there could be dirt off to the side or a little ways ahead or behind haha. ;)
 

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Becca Mills said:
I don't mind the phrase "_________er than ever before." Yeah, it's got some redundancy, but it's an established idiom and has a nice sound. On the other hand, I find "present" and "now" redundant to the point of obvious error. Unless there's something I don't understand about the mission's rocket stages, the structure "we are GO as these three crewmembers are now travelling faster" is weird. It appears to say that the mission is on because the crewmembers are traveling faster than anyone has ever traveled before, but in fact the reverse is true: the crewmembers are traveling faster than anyone has ever traveled before because the mission was launched. If the mission weren't "GO," they'd be still be sitting on the pad, eh? Comma + "and" instead of "as" would solve the problem, removing the suggestion of cause-and-effect.

Shane is right that these issues help create the sentence's style: wordy, bureaucratic, confusing. If that's what NASA was going for, great, but I have a feeling it wasn't. Famous utterances from the past aren't always perfect. In fact, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" is one of the most famous flubs around. It was supposed to be "one small step for A man," which actually makes sense.
Becca, he is looking at exact transcripts.
Now with NASA, everything was either GO or NO GO so yes very important words.
 

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This is the art part of writing. There, part is superfluous. And that sentence is stronger as: This is the art of writing. But, in my case, I was trying to communicate there are many parts of writing and the words that reinforce meaning, or add contextual meaning for a culture, are the part that makes writing art.

Communication is nuanced. When we add words, or remove words, how sentences are interpreted changes.

The human mind needs repetition for comprehension. We do not gather 100% of the information presented in one pass. Even a phrase "the sky above" communicates to me a spatial consideration of the sky in the context of the sentence or passage, as opposed to the color of the sky, or the size of the sky.

He looked to the sky.
He looked to the sky above.

In one sentence, my mind is focused on his head's movement. In the other, when I read it, I'm am thinking about the sky. It's a very subtle difference, and not even a universal difference. Others might not read or feel there is any nuance between those sentences.

Certainly, make your words carry their weight, make sure they are ADDING some sort of clarification or emphasis or mood etc. to your writing. But to just write purely without redundancy would kill many stories. It would be like reading a technical manual.
 
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Elizabeth Ann West said:
This is the art part of writing. There, part is superfluous. And that sentence is stronger as: This is the art of writing. But, in my case, I was trying to communicate there are many parts of writing and the words that reinforce meaning, or add contextual meaning for a culture, are the part that makes writing art.

Communication is nuanced. When we add words, or remove words, how sentences are interpreted changes.

The human mind needs repetition for comprehension. We do not gather 100% of the information presented in one pass. Even a phrase "the sky above" communicates to me a spatial consideration of the sky in the context of the sentence or passage, as opposed to the color of the sky, or the size of the sky.

He looked to the sky.
He looked to the sky above.

In one sentence, my mind is focused on his head's movement. In the other, when I read it, I'm am thinking about the sky. It's a very subtle difference, and not even a universal difference. Others might not read or feel there is any nuance between those sentences.

Certainly, make your words carry their weight, make sure they are ADDING some sort of clarification or emphasis or mood etc. to your writing. But to just write purely without redundancy would kill many stories. It would be like reading a technical manual.
Yep. I agree with all this. There seems to be an over focus happening.
 

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cinisajoy said:
Becca, he is looking at exact transcripts.
Now with NASA, everything was either GO or NO GO so yes very important words.
I understand that, Cin. But as with many bureaucracies, NASA does not always produce good writing. In this case, they didn't. The mission may have been GO, but it wasn't GO because the astronauts happened to be traveling 67 miles per second at that moment, or whatever.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Becca Mills said:
I don't mind the phrase "_________er than ever before." Yeah, it's got some redundancy, but it's an established idiom and has a nice sound. On the other hand, I find "present" and "now" redundant to the point of obvious error. Unless there's something I don't understand about the mission's rocket stages, the structure "we are GO as these three crewmembers are now travelling faster" is weird. It appears to say that the mission is on because the crewmembers are traveling faster than anyone has ever traveled before, but in fact the reverse is true: the crewmembers are traveling faster than anyone has ever traveled before because the mission was launched. If the mission weren't "GO," they'd be still be sitting on the pad, eh? Comma + "and" instead of "as" would solve the problem, removing the suggestion of cause-and-effect.
Yes, "as" in that sentence indicates "while", though it could be read as indicating "because". You're right that putting in a comma + "and" would remove any possible confusion. As Cindy pointed out, these are actual quotes from the astronauts and observers, although I am not totally adverse to 'cleaning them up a bit' on occasion. In fact, I've succumbed to the possible delusion that I am now able to make Walter Cronkite sound more like Walter Cronkite. ;D

The capitalized GO is a NASA idiom indicating everything is okay.

Becca Mills said:
Famous utterances from the past aren't always perfect. In fact, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" is one of the most famous flubs around. It was supposed to be "one small step for A man," which actually makes sense.
That quote has bothered me since Neil Armstrong first uttered it in 1969. I had to use it in my book about the mission and pondered long about whether to quote it verbatim or to change it to what Armstrong surely meant. I settled on inserting his missing word in parentheses:

"This is one small step for (a) man - one giant leap for mankind."

Still wonder how readers reacted to that bit of meddling on my part.
 

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I was just thinking that Philip is going by the original transcripts and needs to be exact. 
Now this has me curious as to how fast they were going per second.
 
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