Tautology Tuesday: how to avoid inflation when introducing a bulleted list

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[This entry originally appeared on Clare Lynch’s blog, goodcopybadcopy]

This week’s tautology is a phrase that seems to precede every bulleted list in every corporate document I come across: “include, among (or amongst) others”. (And the 2,444,000 instances of the phrase returned by a quick Google search prove that this tautology is, indeed, rife).

An example might be:

J. K. Rowling’s books include, among others:

– Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
– Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
– The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The introduction to the bulleted list would have been fine as simply “J. K. Rowling’s books include:” because the word “include” already tells us that the following list is not complete – that these books are “among others”. So including the words “among others” adds nothing but verbiage.

And the trouble with tautology is that it’s inflationary in nature. Once writers begin to feel that “include, among others” isn’t sufficiently wordy, they start to resort to the triply tautological “examples include, among(st) others” (currently just 1,187 instances on Google but you can bet that number’s growing).

Again, the fact that you’ve stated that you’re merely listing “examples” of, say, J.K. Rowling’s novels, implies that they are “included among others”. So please just precede your list with “Examples of J.K. Rowling’s novels are:”.

Anything else sounds as if you’re trying to cover your back about not providing a definitive list. Which brings me back to why I hate tautology – it makes you seem rather desperate. And that’s so not a good look in a writer.

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