Rarely, if ever, is this a literal error. If it is, it’s one that even the most novice of writers can correct. You just don’t see “I play basketball for fun. I play basketball for fun.” So what do I mean when I say “don’t repeat yourself?”

The problem is when you write two sentences back to back that don’t add any new information. For example, you might say, “While I worked at the summer camp, I learned a lot about communicating with underprivileged children. These kids taught me how to speak with people I wouldn’t normally spend time with.” There’s just not enough unique information to justify turning this into two sentences. Following in the steps of the previous problem, it’s better to write “That summer, I learned how to communicate with underprivileged children, a group I normally wouldn’t hang out with.”

This problem relates to the one about “Be Concise.” If you’re able to avoid redundancy, you can create more room for unique content. But if you end up saying the same thing over and over, the reader gets bored and thinks, “Yeah, I get it.” You don’t want that.

Go through your sentences. Does each one add a unique element? If you deleted it, would the essay as a whole lose any information? I like to look at each sentence and the sentence that came before and after it. I may not delete it entirely, but if I can merge it with one, then I will do that for brevity and to avoid redundancy.

In short, don’t do what this paragraph does. Don’t do what the words in this paragraph do.

Don’t repeat yourself.

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