Have No Unreasonable Fear of Repetition

Have no unreasonable fear of repetition. True, the repetition of a particular word several times in the same paragraph can strike a jarring note, but ordinarily the problem arises differently. The story is told of a feature writer who was doing a piece on the United Fruit Company. He spoke of bananas once; he spoke of bananas twice; he spoke of bananas yet a third time, and now he was desperate. “The world’s leading shippers of the elongated yellow fruit,” he wrote. A fourth banana would have been better. — James J. Kilpatrick

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3 responses to “Have No Unreasonable Fear of Repetition

  1. Great advice. As a rule, I change the same word if in the same paragraph, etc. But what a statement it can make if it’s deliberate…Cheers!

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    • I take a simple, often minimalistic approach to writing (which I’ve been called out on for my lack of examples in posts, among other things) and am a firm believer in avoiding the unnecessary over-complication of diction, especially in awkward ways.

      Not all words, verbs in particular, work the way banana does in James’ example. The thing to bear in mind is there are many ways to describe the action of a scene, and if a writer repeats themselves over and over, even though strong alternatives (as opposed to overly ‘cute’ choices) exist, they aren’t creating the best experience for the reader.

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