Listen very carefully, I shall say this only twice

I was watching the news last night when there was a report about the Sheffield half marathon debacle. (If you missed the story, the race was cancelled because water supplies didn’t turn up but most runners went ahead and ran it anyway). The reporter said this mishap was something that organisers wouldn’t want to “repeat again”.

This is a great example of tautology – or saying the same thing twice. “Repeat” means to do something again. The reporter should either have said it wasn’t something the organisers would want to repeat, or it wasn’t something they would want to happen again. She didn’t need to say both.

When I was a trainee journalist for a business magazine company in the 1980s, tautology was one of the training manager’s bugbears. Woe betide you if you wrote that a company was “launching a new product”. By definition, he explained, a launch involved something new. “They wouldn’t launch an old product would they?” he demanded.

So whatever you want to say – say it clearly, say it concisely… and say it once.