Tautology is the needless repetition of a single concept.
Examples of Tautology
Look at these examples of tautology:
- At that moment in time, the stars dimmed.
(It's always a moment in time.)
- The man who used to live next door is a single bachelor.
(Bachelors are always single.)
- The vote was totally unanimous.
(The word totally doesn't add anything.)
- He left at 3 am in the morning.
(The term am means in the morning.)
- The reason is because he left during the dinner.
(The word because doesn't add anything.)
- In our assessment, we think he is alive.
(In our assessment and we think do the same job.)
- This is a new innovation.
(Innovations are always new.)
Examples of Possible Tautology
Sometimes, you have to think whether something really is a tautology. Look at these examples:
- She died of a fatal dose of heroin.
Argument For: You don't need the word fatal.
Argument Against: She might have died from a non-fatal dose, i.e., one that wouldn't kill most people.
- Present a short summary.
Argument For: Summaries are always short.
Argument Against: Er, no they're not.
- Enter your PIN number in the ATM machine.
Argument For: The N in PIN stands for Number, and the M in ATM stands for Machine.
Argument Against: Yeah, okay. But, PIN and ATM have become standalone terms these days. It's helpful to put the words number and machine to ensure everyone understands.
Sometimes, tautology can be difficult to spot:
- A so-called "clean" surface.
(If the quotation marks are used to show that the surface is not clean, then there is no need for the words so-called.)
Quotation marks to denote so-called
Glossary of grammatical terms