18

Should we avoid repeating redundant information after a dialogue and is there a way around this? Sometimes, you feel prompted to write the description of an action that follows a line, but that also seems to be redundant, and it leads to some pretty bad prose. How would you work around this?

For example:

"Here's the chip in question." he said as he handed the chip to him. "It's a very old chip, make sure you take care of it."

Sounds redundant, but the fact he's handing it is also important somewhat, or can be important for what may follow. What would you do in this situation?

  • 1
    Would you say, "Here's the chip in question. It's a very old chip", or would you say, "Here's the chip in question. It's very old"? That's the answer. – RonJohn 2 days ago
  • Any time I attempt trimming down on redundancy in my writing, I just think back to William Gibson's writing in Neuromancer. What concise yet rich language that author has! – BMF 2 days ago
  • 1
    @RonJohn "Here you go," he said as he handed <name> the chip. "It's very old. Make sure you take care of it." – some_guy632 2 days ago
21

Should you avoid redundancy?

Yes.

How do you get around this?

Cut the redundant part and show only the new information. Infinitezero has already given a good example on that.

"Here's the chip in question." He pulled it out from his pocket with slow, deliberate gestures. He gave out the impression of an elephant trying to move bohemian crystal around. "It's a very old one, make sure you take care of it".

As you can see, I've omitted "he said", since here it can be implied neatly. If there's nothing new to tell, you don't have to make it up:

"Here's the chip in question." He said. "It's a very old one, make sure you take care of it".

Here the pause is still effective, since it cuts the dialogue lines. The lack of further information leaves the reader imagining the chip being passed.

  • 4
    You could also come from the other person's perspective: "... make sure you take care of it." -> Jim took the package and carefully stowed it in his Acme Supperr Secure LokBox. – Cullub Jul 12 at 20:04
  • 1
    I think it should be "Here's the chip in question." He pulled it out from his pocket with slow, deliberate gestures. – Acccumulation 14 hours ago
  • @Acccumulation Noted. – Liquid 10 hours ago
29

Why don't you paraphrase the action? Say what he is literally doing. How does he give the chip? Is it in an envelope? Does he extend his arm? Is he tossing it? ....

"Here's the chip in question" he said as he passed him the sealed envelope, making sure [Jack] had a firm grip on it before he let go. "It's a very old one, make sure you take care of it.

New contributor
infinitezero is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
  • 5
    Key point to note here seems to be to highlight the difference between "repeating redundant information" to the reader, and instead expanding on the information presented to the reader, and reinforcing the information. - "Can this be reworded to add more detail or important information about what is going on?" [Just keep in mind that at times, less is still more.] – TheLuckless Jul 12 at 17:42
10

Just get rid of the redundancies, and it will sound fine.

Original: "Here's the chip in question." he said as he handed to chip to him. "It's a very old chip, make sure you take care of it."

Revised: "Here's the chip in question," he said, as he handed it to him, "It's very old, make sure you take care of it."

You don't have to repeat "chip" every time. An alternative is to name the object second:

Revised: "This is the one," he said, handing him an anti-stat bag holding a chip. "It's very old, make sure you take care of it."

3

Redundancy is good, but in writing it is better to re-phrase than to repeat. Repeating is ok in dialog, as long as that is just how that character speaks, but outside dialog you should check if you are repeating any words, and try to avoid that. If you need to, walk away for a day and re-read it to see if anything sounds weird/off.

"Here's the chip in question." he said as he handed it to me. "It's a very old chip, make sure you take care of it."

(He and Him imply the same person in this context, so will confuse some readers on first read through)

1

In the palm of his hand was an old, rugged chip. As he extended his arm towards me he said: "It's very old. Take good care of it."

Don't know if this helps, but this is what I would make of it. :-) Redundancy in writing is for me as a reader really annoying.

New contributor
El Vira is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
1

Redundancy is neither good nor bad. It either works for you or doesn't. In your brief lines, you have a lot of redundancy that, not knowing the context, can probably be removed without sacrificing understandability.

"Here's the chip. It's very old so make sure you take care of it."

"In question" isn't needed. The handing over of the chip isn't needed; it's implied with "here's the chip" and in the next sentence the other character will pocket it so it's clear that he has it.

Seems to me that there's no need to linger on that sentence any longer than that. Just pass the coin and get on with the story.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.