Last week the Economist reminded me of an important fact about language: Redundancy is good.
That may sound odd coming from me if you are familiar with my many rants about using fewer, and smaller words. But repetition is a best practice when you are trying to persuade. And when it comes to repetition, the magic number is three.
I started my career as a speechwriter in the state legislature. In speechwriting as in debating repetition is essential. Listeners, unlike readers, can’t scan back to remind themselves of where the writer is going, or of what information they may have missed while checking their phone.
Repetition works in written communication too. You’ll remember from English 101 that essays start with your premise, the middle contains your argument supporting your premise and in the conclusion, you restate your premise. If you condense that formula for business writing, you are stating your key point three times.
However, this is not to be taken as an excuse to be wordy or long winded. You can repeat small words just as easily as long ones. As the article points out, when William Strunk’s lectures ran short, he would resort to repeating his key message: “Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!”
If it worked for Strunk, it will probably work for you too.