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Writing

3 Tips for Avoiding Word Repetition in Your Writing

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jan 23, 2020 • 1 min read

Writers use repetition intentionally all the time. When done right, the repetition of a phrase or word adds emphasis and rhythm. Plenty of literary devices involve a repetition: Anaphora, conduplicatio, epimone, epistrophe, and epizeuxis are all forms of word repetition, while alliteration, assonance, and consonance involve the repetition of particular sounds. Sometimes, though, you’ll run into the unnecessary repetition of a word, which can make your writing awkward and difficult to read.

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3 Tips for Avoiding Word Repetition

When you’re not using repetition as a rhetorical device, repeating words can get in the way of good writing. Here are some tricks for avoiding unnecessary repetition of words:

  1. Read your work aloud. Reading aloud will help you avoid unintentional word repetition. Reading your work aloud is an excellent way to both hear the sonic effects of your prose and catch awkward repeated sounds or other unintended effects.
  2. Read your work backward. Reading your work backward is an editing trick that forces your brain to slow down and pay close attention to the individual sentences. Start at the end of a chapter, paragraph, or page and read the last sentence of that section. (Don’t read the sentence itself backward—it won’t make any sense.) Next, read the second-to-last sentence, and so on. This will allow you to work at the sentence level, catching any unintended repetition or other small mistakes that your brain naturally skims over.
  3. Consult a thesaurus. So you’ve found a repeated word. Now what? You can try rearranging your sentence to get rid of the repeated word, or you can keep the sentence the same try plugging in different words in its place. If you’re at a loss, consult a thesaurus for a list of synonyms. You want your writing to sound like you, and to be accessible to your audience, so it’s best to avoid using words you aren’t familiar with. But if you find yourself unintentionally repeating the same word over and over, a thesaurus can help you identify another word that more precisely captures your meaning.

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