Can we all stop ‘nodding our heads’?

first_imgRedundancies happen whenever a writer either doesn’t know the exact meaning of the word he/she’s using or is afraid the reader won’t understand a message if he/she’s too sparse on writing.Some redundancies are like bad habits, we often don’t realize we are doing it, especially if they have become so popular as to be seen everywhere, posing as the correct use of language.There are three specific redundancies I’ve been seeing pop up over and over again, not only on the internet, where editing is considerably limited but in traditionally published books – which makes me wonder how both author and editor missed these issues.Those redundancies relate to three specific physical expressions: Nodding, shrugging and blinking.Nodding“The character nodded his/her head”“I nodded my head”“They nodded their heads”Why is it redundant? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the verb “to nod” means “to move the head down and then put up again quickly, esp to show agreement, approval or greeting.”In other words, it’s impossible to nod any other body part but the head. Just like saying you heard with your ears, saying you nodded your head is unnecessary.Specifying that someone “nodded in agreement” is also not strictly necessary, unless you want to make a point of differentiating between nodding to indicate agreement from nodding to indicate a greeting. However, mostly a reader can differentiate between the two uses by the context alone, so stating that someone “nodded in agreement” will be largely unnecessary.When you mean that someone moved their head up and down quickly, just say “they nodded.”Shrugging“The character shrugged his/her shoulders”“I shrugged my shoulders”“They shrugged their shoulders”Why is it redundant?Again, the Cambridge Dictionary has the answer. To shrug means “to raise your shoulders to express that you do not know, do not care, or are not sure about something.”Once again, if you’re using a verb that refers to a specific body part, all you need is the verb. No one can shrug their legs. Shrugging automatically requires the use of one’s shoulders.Therefore, whenever you write, stating that someone “shrugged their shoulders” is a redundancy.Blinking“The character blinked his/her eyes”“I blinked my eyes”“They blinked their eyes”Why is it redundant?According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “to blink” means “to close and open the eyes quickly, once or several times.”Whenever someone blinks, they can’t possibly be blinking their mouths, it has to be with their eyes, there’s no other way around it. Regardless, I’ve seen one too many times writers using “they blinked their eyes.”To differentiate between blinking once and several times, as a rule of thumb, I only state how many times a character has blinked if they did it more than once. Once: he/she blinked. More than once: he/ she blinked twice/several times.There’s nothing wrong, however, with emphasizing that your character “blinked once.” Use your better judgment, just remember, you don’t have to reinforce that your character has used their eyes in the action of blinking.Why is it important to avoid redundanciesIt can be hard to avoid redundancies when you’re unsure about yours or your reader’s domain of language. As you strengthen your vocabulary, the chances of letting a redundancy slip into your writing diminish — and that can only be achieved through mindful practice.Avoiding redundancies helps you reach clarity in your writing without sacrificing on conciseness, and it makes for a cleaner, more elegant use of language.last_img read more