For many novice or struggling writers, one of the biggest missteps is unintentional repetition.
While repeating elements of a work can be a powerful tool to add emphasis to that element, it has to be used with care. Unfortunately, many writers, especially those still learning the craft, unintentionally repeat parts of their work, distracting from the point that they are trying to make.
The problem is that it’s often difficult to know when you are being repetitive as many elements aren’t things that are easy to spot. With that in mind, here are seven rules to follow if you want to avoid excessive and annoying repetition in your writing.
Always Avoid Alliteration: Starting at the individual words in your writing, try to avoid putting words together that sound similar. Whether they begin with the same sound, they rhyme or they just generally sound alike. The best way to spot such repetition is to read your work aloud, stop at parts that are tough to read and then rewrite them to be easier.
Eliminate Repeating Words within Sentences: While there are some words you can safely repeat in a sentence, repeating a word with more than two syllables is risky. Though this is not a hard and fast rule, it pays to make sure that you aren’t using the same word over and over in a sentence and instead turn to synonyms or break up sentences when necessary.
Vary Sentence Length: Turning our attention to sentences, it pays to alter sentence length. Some sentences can be extremely short. Others, however, can be very long and can carry on for several lines without being confusing. If all of your sentences are one or the other, your work becomes unvaried and difficult to read. Variety helps keep the reader engaged.
Use Different Sentence Structures: Similar to sentence length, it’s important to vary the structure of your sentences. If every sentence begins with the same words or has the same structure (such as object, verb, adverb) the pace of the piece will be the same and it will feel very repetitive. Mixing up your sentence types keeps the writing fresh and varied, making it easier to read.
Diversify Paragraph Lengths: Though teachers often explain to young students that paragraphs should be a set number of sentences and have certain components, paragraphs can be almost any length from one sentence to five or more. Paragraphs are meant to give readers breaks and giving them breaks at the exact same time over and over again gets extremely repetitive.
Check Paragraph Intros: After you finish a work, quickly skim the first words of every paragraph and make sure you aren’t repeating paragraph intros. It’s easy to, without realizing it, start every other paragraph with “However”, “Because” or something else. A quick glance, however, should let you spot any problems.
Double Check Your Headers: Be sure to double check any headers, section heads or any subheads you have in your work and make sure they aren’t too similar. Since readers often skim a work first, they might read those back-to-back and spot repetition you didn’t intend.
Bottom line: When it comes to avoiding unwanted repetition, it’s about making sure that your work is diverse at every level. That includes your words, your sentences, your paragraphs and even as a whole. Once you become aware of repetition in your writing and mistakes you commonly make, they become easy to catch and avoid. People write repetitively because they are blind to the patterns. Once they are visible, they are almost impossible to miss.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today, and do not reflect the opinions of WriteCheck