When I was in school, I learned that redundancy is boring, particularly when it comes to writing. In order to keep the reader’s interest, I needed to find different words to say the same thing. In creative writing, I think this is true. Redundancy is boring. If I am reading a novel, I don’t want to read, “It was a sunny day,” each time the author wants to describe a sunny day.

In technical writing, it is important to say the same thing, the same way, each and every time you say it. There are a couple of good reasons for doing so:

  • It greatly lowers the cost of translation. Translation is priced by the word, by the language. Once you’ve paid to have a sentence translated into a particular language, you don’t have to pay for that sentence to be translated into that language ever again.
  • It makes your content easier to read. This is especially true if you are documenting procedures or if your reader has English as a second language. Setting the expectation for the reader makes it easier to follow instructions and easier to locate information.

Here is my favorite example. How many ways can you think of to say “Click OK”?

  • Click OK.
  • Click on OK.
  • Click the OK button.
  • Click on the OK button.
  • Press OK.
  • Press on OK.
  • Press the OK button.
  • Press on the OK button.
  • Navigate to the OK button and click it.
  • Move your mouse to the OK button and press it.
  • Using the left mouse button, click OK.

…you get the idea.

Instead of searching for creative ways to say the same thing, find the simplest way to get your point across, using the fewest number of words necessary. Then, every time you need to make that point, go back to the same words. Over and over and over. Your company will save tons of money on translation and your customers will thank you.

Val Swisher
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