REPEAT POLICE

By: Jeanne Marie Leach

Self-proclaimed editor of the month

One of my pet peeves as an editor is repetition. I once mentored another Colorado writer who had trouble in this area. Every other page had a repetition infraction, and since she was a friend, I soon simply gave her this comment, “Repeat police! Repeat police.” If you are reading this and you’re the person I’m talking about. . .hi. Didn’t I tell you one day you’d have more books published than me?

There are many ways repetition can find its way into a book. One is by using the same noun repeatedly in the same sentence or paragraph.

George jumped into his red sports car and turned on the engine. He backed the car out of the driveway and then sped down the street in the car. He enjoyed the many stares he got from guys who envied him for his car, and from the chicks who dug guys with cool cars.

You saw the word, didn’t you? And it became glaringly annoying.

Another form of repetition is when the writer wants to drive home a certain point and says the same thing, only using different words. In the following example, only one of the sentences is necessary and the other can be eliminated.

Jane had never in her life met a man she admired as much as Tim. For the first time ever, she’d found a man whom she could look up to in Tim.

The next repeat offense that bothers me is when authors repeat words for effect. It’s especially maddening when I find more than one of these on the same page. It even irked me to have to write this example for you.

Jane crept down the long hallway—the hallway her mother had stepped into just moments before. Where had she gone? Perhaps she’d gone into her room—the room where a century ago someone had been murdered—murdered by their own step-father.

This really does nothing to heighten the tension and is unnecessary to the story. The author would achieve the same effect with shorter sentences that get to the point. Here’s the same paragraph rewritten to create more tension.

Jane crept down the long hallway. Where had mother gone? To her room? Until then the fact that someone had been murdered by their own step-father a century ago in what was now her mother’s room meant nothing to her.

I hope you get what I’m saying here in this blog. Do you get the point of this blog—the blog that I hope gives you something to think about? My main goal of writing this blog is to help you recognize repetition in your own writing. Be on the lookout for repetition and you’ll stave off the Repeat Police.

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