Is Repetition In Writing a Good Thing?

written by Anisa A. Claire

Repetition in storytelling, generally, is not a good thing. However, there are always exceptions to the rules, right? So, let’s quickly take a look at where repetition works and where it does not.

Repeating Words in the Same Sentence: When you say the same thing twice in one sentence it usually stands out in the reader’s head, but not in a good way. Always watch for this in your writing and bust out your awesome vocabulary skills to replace one of the offending words with something else.

Repeating Words in the Same Paragraph: Sometimes, even using the same word twice (or more) in the same paragraph can trip up your readers. This is especially the case in uncommon ones.

Exceptions to the Above Two: There are some words out there, such as the word… word! (hah!), that don’t leave a lot of wiggle room for getting creative. In this case, you may have no choice but to repeat.

Repeating for Emphasis: This is okay in the event you are trying for dramatic emphasis. Still, I would avoid overusing this method. An example would be: “Me. I am the strength. The strength this family so desperately needs. Me and me alone!”

If you want to see this ‘repeating for emphasis’ overdone in dialogue, and how a good thing can be ruined, check out the T.V. show, Scandal. Pay close attention to their character’s dialogue and you’ll notice how all of them speak in this same dramatic, emphasized pattern.

Repetition of Information: This can be helpful in stories if you have a long character list. For example, George R. R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire repeats the house names a lot. In this case, it’s a good thing because it helps the reader remember and feel less confused, especially in the very beginning.

Repetition of information can also be handy in situations where it’s crucial to what is happening in the storyline. As always, though, be careful to not overdo it. Trust that your reader is intelligent and doesn’t need everything spelled out to them. 

In Summary: In articles, such as this one, the summary repeats what the overall article said. In this case, repetition definitely works.

As I said in the beginning, in general, avoid repetition. Use it sparingly. For editing, go through and remove as many ‘same’ words as possible.


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