A topic that came up frequently at my last MFA residency was redundancy. Beginning writers are most guilty of this prose sin, but even veterans make slip-ups. I know I do! In the spirit of keeping us all honest, I’m beginning a series of posts on frequent redundancies. I’ll cover the ones I’ve seen the most, and offer suggestions on rooting them out. The result should be clearer prose for all.
The first offender is motion verb + body part redundancy. I see this one all the time, and I’m always surprised when it crops up in my own pages.
Examples: He reached for a cupcake with his hand. She kicked the ball with her foot. I slapped him with my palm.
Why are these bad? Because reached, kicked, and slapped are very specific motion verbs, and readers will assume the body part being used. Anything more is padding word count, unless it has special significance. If the character’s reaching with his tail, then do tell. Otherwise, keep it simple.
I’d revise as: He reached for the cupcake. She kicked the ball. I slapped him.
In this case, cutting the extra words makes for clearer, more concise action.