Good writers need to have a wide vocabulary. Perhaps you remember your teachers at school encouraging you to use more interesting language in your writing.
Repeating the same words can be very boring and a bit irritating.
There was a nice house with a nice garden and a nice view over the hills.
Add some more exciting alternatives and you’ve got a much better sentence.
There was a beautiful house with a lovely garden and a magnificent view over the hills.
But there are times when showing off your vocabulary can make your writing confusing.
Consider this example:
Thanks for applying for a Wafflington Royal Theatre Membership Card. We will send your customer card to you by post, along with a welcome letter that includes your seven digit ID code.
When you log into your online account you will need to enter the identification number to buy tickets. To buy tickets at the box office, please bring your proof of membership with you and quote your ref. number.
In these instructions, it sounds as though there are two different cards: a ‘Membership Card’ and ‘customer card’, as well as separate ‘proof of membership’. These are all, in fact, the same thing. The writer has used three different descriptions for the same card.
Similarly there seems to be a ‘seven digit ID code’, an ‘identification number’ and a ‘ref. number’. Again, these are three different names for the same thing.
By trying to avoid repeating herself, the writer has made these instructions more confusing. There’s nothing wrong with using a variety of words to add life and colour to your writing. The problem comes when you are using several different names for the same thing.
Let’s try it again, repeating the key words.
Thanks for applying for a Wafflington Royal Theatre Membership Card. We will send your Membership Card to you by post, along with a welcome letter that includes your seven digit ID number.
When you log into your online account you will need to enter your ID number to buy tickets. To buy tickets at the box office, please bring your Membership Card with you and quote your ID number.
We’ve ended up with a much clearer set of instructions. In this case, the repetition isn’t boring or annoying. It makes sense.
Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself if it makes your writing clearer. We’ll be tackling another example with this tip on Thursday, so stay tuned for the next workshop.