In this episode, host Carl Richards interviews Felicity Brand, Christine Beuhler, Liz Robau, and Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire. We talk about how we use the Editing Code REPET to ensure our technical communication is interesting for readers and a mindful practice for writers and editors.
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Avoid careless repetition — REPET Editing Code
The REPET editing code falls in phase C, the style and phrasing phase of our editorial process. It’s about being mindful of your phrasing so that you aren’t repeating yourself. Our guidebook says:
REPET: Avoid careless repetition — of words, phrases, sections, or concepts.
This code might seem obvious, but it can manifest in different ways. It’s not just about repeating the same word several times in a sentence; it can be about saying the same thing differently, which is equally redundant. This can happen at the individual word level, by sentence, or by section or concept, when you could be wowing your reader with your next point instead!
However, not all repetition is bad; sometimes it has a purpose. It can be a powerful, persuasive rhetorical tool. That’s why you will often hear it used in political speech and speeches (“of the people, by the people, for the people”). But repetition is less impactful in writing than speaking, and it’s not often that we find a good reason to use repetition that way in our strategic product communication at OSP.
- Before: There are many features we’re planning for and mulling over, on the horizon.
- After: There are many potential features on the horizon.
- Before: Make your communication better. Make your writing better. Make your strategy better.
- After: Make your communication clearer, writing stronger, and strategy more targeted.
As a writer
Most word-processing editors these days will flag repeated words, so as a writer, you can spot the obvious ones. A handy tip can be to read your writing out loud; this can help you identify repetition. When you notice repetition, it might be a good prompt for you to find a quote to support your argument instead, or perhaps use a metaphor to add color.
Liz, one of our Communication Consultants, says, “As a writer, I think about REPET usually at the phase where I'm self-editing. Sometimes you do need to repeat yourself like how you might be saying a similar thing in your introductory paragraph as your closing paragraph. But you should always be looking for variants and how you say it.”
As an editor
Instances of repetition can sometimes be hard to spot as a writer, but they are often hiding in plain sight, and will often jump right out to an editor. A second set of eyes on a piece of writing will generally help catch and polish out unintentional or ineffective repetition.
Jeffrey A. “jam” McGuire, the inventor of our Editing Codes, adds, “When I notice repetition in a text, I spot an opportunity often to tighten things up. Avoiding mindless repetition is the important part.”
As a reader
Any way you slice it, whether it’s using the same words several times, or using different words to say the same thing, repetition is boring for a reader. Liz agrees. “Readers get bored of repetitive writing. I think that's a pretty natural instinct. People don't like feeling like they're having something drilled into them.”
Persuading a reader in 500 words instead of 750 can be a mark of a good writing, and it’s also more enjoyable for readers. “Avoiding repetition is a way of respecting readers’ time and intelligence,” Jam concludes.
Creating mindful communication takes practice — join us!
Avoiding careless or unintentional repetition is a simple way to tighten up your writing, clarify your points, and make your communication more engaging for the reader. Like so many of our guidelines, being mindful of what you do will get you a long way and context is everything. If you do choose repetition, use it sparingly; a little can go a long way.
We hope you'll come and join us as we keep nerding out about writing, editing, and all things communication!
From the robot transcription mines, we bring you at least some words from our episode in an order that might or might not reflect our intentions:
Carl Richards 0:07
Hi, I'm Carl from OSP. And this is communicate Connect grow the OSP podcast.
Carl Richards 0:31
On today's episode, we're talking about avoiding repetition in your writing with the editing code repete. About our podcast, if you want to be a more effective writer, a more transparent editor, develop clear strategic thinking, or learn from our network of expert friends and colleagues. That's what we're here for. We divide our episodes across three themes, communicate, connect, and grow. This is a communicate episode, and we're talking about avoiding repetition in your writing. With our editorial code repete. The repet editing code falls into the style and phrasing part of the editing process. It's about being mindful of your phrasing so that you're not repeating yourself unnecessarily. In our documentation about this code, it says avoid repetition in your writing. Not all repetition is bad. It has a purpose, it can be a powerful rhetorical tool, it can be persuasive, little can go a long way, use it sparingly. Hi,
Jeffrey A. McGuire 1:32
I'm Jim, I'm one of the partners at open strategy partners. And I do a lot of writing and editing and thinking about authentic communication. The editing code repet comes from repetition. At the time, when we were creating the first batch of these, I thought it would be awesome to have three letter names for the codes. And then I thought of one that needed to be four. And then I thought of one that needed to be five and we've tried to stop at five, anyone who remembers windows three and earlier. Yeah, eight character file names used to be a thing that's not we're about repet comes from repetition. And the idea is to avoid careless repetition. And that can come at different scopes in the process anywhere from repeating entire ideas, or things that are too similar to each other to be differentiated right down to the choice of specific words, and pretty much everything in between. And the idea is to be mindful of what you're reading. My name
Liz Robau 2:29
is Liz, and I'm a communications consultant at OSP. So I help write and edit a lot of content for our clients, from blog posts to case studies to landing pages. So the code repet it's about looking for repetitive clauses or sentences and piece of writing and trying to reduce the amount of repetition that you have in a piece
Felicity Brand 2:58
today. I'm Felicity Brent, I am a communications consultant at open strategy partners. And I work asynchronously with the rest of my team. I'm based in Australia and I am asleep while everyone else is awake. The editing code repair is about avoiding careless repetition. I think that this is an easy trap to fall into.
Christine Beuhler 3:22
I'm Christine Bueller. I'm a communications consultant at open strategy partners. In my day to day I'm talking with clients and helping them figure out what they want in terms of their communications. The rep it editing code is just making sure that you are not repeating yourself in your writing.
Jeffrey A. McGuire 3:50
I seem to notice instances of this when one of us myself included put the same conclusion at the end of a couple of sections of an article. Now, if we think that conclusions important, I see how it happens. But if the reader reads that, you know, bla bla, bla, bla, bla, and then red equals blue, and then something else and then read equals blue, it feels a little weak sometimes. So when that happens, I will tend to see if those two sections might be able to be combined. Or if actually those two ideas are important enough that they need to go to different conclusions or avoid that repetition. When I notice repetition in a text, I spot an opportunity often to tighten things up. Avoiding mindless repetition is the important part. When I write an article, I want the introduction to tell the reader what's coming and what they can learn from it. And then I'm going to tell that story. And then in the conclusion, I probably repeat another version of that and that's fine. But we're talking about being mindful and avoiding careless or unintentional repetition.
Liz Robau 4:58
I use the repec code Usually when I'm reading through a draft, and I noticed that someone's made the same point twice, maybe in in two different phrases, which is something that happens fairly often in first drafts just while you're getting your thoughts out on the page, and usually two sentences can become one in that case
Felicity Brand 5:18
with repet. If I think something is a repetition, or careless repetition, I will mark that as an editor. Editing is a conversation. So that goes back to the writer, and they can review what I've highlighted and reflect and they can fix what was a repetition, or they can see that maybe they were trying to make two different points, and they can tease it out.
Christine Beuhler 5:40
As an editor, when I'm using the repet code, it's really just about making sure that the writer is not using words or phrases over and over again,
Jeffrey A. McGuire 5:58
when I'm writing, I kind of have a feeling for what I'm doing. And I tend to notice, using the same word, too many times too close together, there are some modern tools, helper tools that will point out that you've used the word diverse or deployment or whatever it is a lot of times in your article, and that can be really, really helpful. But in the writing phase, I don't use anything like that. So I like to make my writing a little bit more colorful by finding synonyms. And by not repeating the same word over and over. Unless it's a term of art that I need to say, or unless there's some rhythmic or maybe some device that I'm going for, you know, in a list of items that are tied together by one concept, I might do it, that's not careless, then that's or you know, I'm being mindful and intentional about it.
Liz Robau 6:47
As a writer, I think about repet. Usually at the phase where I'm self editing or reading through a piece of content. Sometimes you do need to repeat yourself like you, you might be saying a similar thing in your intro paragraph in your closing paragraph. But you should always be looking for variants and how you say it. And not just different wording, but like how maybe you're making an argument you're going to prove at the beginning. And then in the end, you're maybe opening it up or leading to another question,
Felicity Brand 7:21
the code reapit. Avoiding careless repetition is really easily done, we all do it. Don't be hard on yourself. Sometimes you might be trying to make a point. And you might use two or three sentences. To get to that point. As an editor, it's sometimes quite easy for me to see that. And I can cut words to make things more concise and kind of bring strings up together to make a much neater package that is more crisp, which is another of our editing codes.
Christine Beuhler 7:51
As a writer, you can pretty much always think of a new and different way to say something. But again, we talked about before, sometimes as a writer, you're too close to the piece where you might not even realize that you are repeating a word or phrase. And so that's where the editor comes in. As a writer, when I'm drafting or creating a piece, sort of keeping repete in the back of my mind, I think it helps because it encourages you to be a little more creative with your phrasing. If you're avoiding repetition, you have to think of alternative ways to say something which is good in general, because it keeps the writing more interesting, more clear, more engaging.
Jeffrey A. McGuire 8:44
In my view of professional communication in our context, which we usually call product communication, I feel that it is respectful to our readers to tell them something once and I hope that they get it why should I tell them twice or three times when I can tell them once they can read the same paragraph again, I think it's respectful to limit the repetition. Honestly, if I can get something across in five or 600 words, why do I need to tell you when 1200 words instead? So it's about respecting people's time and intelligence along the way to
Liz Robau 9:19
readers get really bored if they read a lot of repetitive writing. I think that's a pretty natural instinct. So that's why we as editors try to get rid of repetition as much as possible. People don't like feeling like they're having something drilled into them.
Felicity Brand 9:35
The thing about repetition for radar, it's boring. Yes, no one likes to read something repetitive. And this speaks to clarity. If we're looking at why the repeat code is important for radar is at the basic level. Yes. It's boring, but I think it also speaks to trust. So if you You've got a lot of filler words. Or if you're saying the same thing in slightly different ways, you're going to lose trust because it may look like a whole piece of writing on a particular subject. But if there's no substance, then the reader can see that straightaway
Christine Beuhler 10:17
for readers. I think the rapid code matters just for keeping the reading experience. Interesting. Acknowledging that, the reader has made a choice to come here and read this thing that you have written out of all of the millions of things on the internet, just making sure that you are acknowledging their time, their cognitive load, and you're not increasing it by being careless or repetitive with your writing.
Carl Richards 10:56
We may have repeated ourselves a bit here, but I hope you now have a clear understanding on how to effectively use repete and not falling into those careless repetition traps.
Carl Richards 11:22
How do you address repetition in your writing? Share your examples or questions with us via Twitter at open underscore strategy, or email Hello at open strategy partners.com. This was one of the editorial codes we use at OSP. We'll be sharing more of them as we go. If you'd like to learn more. In the meantime, come over to open strategy partners.com Have a look at our writer enablement workshops, case study offering or get in touch to talk about your strategy or product communication needs. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this podcast, all the peas that OSP thanks to our clients who believe in us. Shout out to Patrick golmaal for our high energy maple syrup flavored theme music and to Mike snow for additional horn arrangements. Thank you for listening and subscribing. About our three themes on the podcast, you'll hear from different members of the OSP team hosting episodes over time, communicate all things communication. We share how we tackle writing, editing, word choices, formats, processes, and more. Connect in depth conversations with interesting smart people about who they are, what they do, and how they approach their life and work as communicators, technologists and leaders grow. We cover strategic approaches to understanding and expressing the value of what you do, including tools, templates, and practical applications. We also feel strongly about building a mindful, positive human first culture at work that's bound to pop up from time to time to this podcast is us figuring out communication, connection, and growing together. Subscribe now on YouTube, Apple podcasts or the podcast channel of your choice. Follow us suggest guests and topics. Ask us questions on social media. We are at open underscore strategy on Twitter. Until next time, thanks for listening to communicate, connect grow the OSP podcast