I sometimes find myself using the same word several times in the same paragraph or even in the same sentence. And at the same time, I see examples all around me of people making the same mistake.

How’s that for an example of the horrors of word repetition?

Unfortunately, I can’t claim to sit on my high horse and look down my nose at the mere mortals making this writing error. I just read through one of my technical articles and the amount of repetition shocked me. Favored phrases kept cropping up. I seem to like works like using “this,” “place,” and “way.” Oh dear.

On the editing side, I battle this habit constantly. Marketers and PRs seem particularly prone. They appear to confuse their desire to communicate corporate messaging with the demands of quality writing. Good stories are ruined by the sudden introduction of blatant commercialism or the urge to let the world know that this product is best thing since sliced tofu. To make matters worse, you hear about sliced tofu again and again.

There is a place for positioning phrases and marketing slogans in brochures, web pages, and press releases. But not in blogs or articles. It’s an immediate turn off to be reading along in an informative article, which quickly turns into a sales pitch. Do one or the other. Don’t squash them together. 

An editing step is recommended. Read through your copy AFTER you check for typos and general flow. Go through it looking for repetition. The experience can be humbling.

Unholy Treble

I must end with one of my favorite gripes about press release quotes. An earlier blog post noted how bad press release quotes can be. I wrote this parody a few years back.

“As the market leader in our field, we feel certain that our market leading technology will continue to lead the market,” said Dick Vain, CEO of Conceited Corp.

Sadly, my words may have been misinterpreted. Instead of warning the world about what not to do, some may be taking this example as the right way to compose quotes in releases.

I read an executive quote in a press release from a major manufacturer the other day that used market leading twice in one sentence. It is my dream to read a press release one day that contains three references to market leadership in one sentence. Let’s call it the Unholy Treble.

Drew Robb