A matter of writing style: redundancy

A reader calls our attention to this sentence from Saturday’s (Dec. 29, 2007) page 2A:

There may be biological reasons why.

To this reader and others, the phrase “reason(s) why” is an example of redundancy. The sentence would work just fine and sound better without “why.” However, the sentence above is not ungrammatical. Avoiding redundancy is a matter of style. Another often cited example of redundancy is “consensus of opinion.” We copy editors are trained to fix redundancy, along with faulty grammar, unclear constructions, misused words and a million other problems. Still, readers will find plenty of examples in newspaper writing. Sometimes, a redundancy is deliberate and calculated to make a point; other times, it is merely colloquial and harmless. I think this one falls under “harmless.”

Here is a link to The American Heritage Book of English Usage on style. One of the subtopics is redundancy.

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.