Repetition in Prose

This page was first published on the 4th of November, 2016 and last updated on the 4th of November, 2016 by Patrick Carpen.

In the English language, we use pronouns to replace nouns. We do this because we have experienced that repeating the same noun over and over can be cumbersome and boring. Look at the example below.

Sally is getting dressed for school. Sally wants to go to school on time. Sally dreams of become a lawyer. Sally hopes that one day Sally will make a significant impact on Sally’s community.

Instead of using “Sally” so many times, we can replace “Sally”, with the pronoun “she and her”. See how much better the paragraph reads when we use the “tool” of the pronoun.

Sally is getting dressed for school. She wants to go to school on time. She dreams of becoming a lawyer. She hopes that one day she will make a significant impact on her community.

Pronouns help us to avoid cumbersome repetition of the same words over and over. But, as with almost all things in life, there are rare exceptions. For example, in poetry, poets use repetition to add spice and rhythm to their verses.

But repetition is not just useful in poetry: in rare cases, it is also useful in prose.

Read the two passages below. One uses the tool of “repetition”, and the other uses the tool of the pronoun. Do you see how repetition can add special effect to writing, even prose? Just as pronouns can help a passage to read better, so can repetition.

A Healthy Lifestyle by Patrick Carpen

 

Example One: The use of repetition

 

A healthy lifestyle means getting enough sleep. A healthy lifestyle means taking the time to eat healthy meals, especially meals that constitute a balanced diet. A healthy lifestyle means taking the time to eat fruits and vegetables, especially in the morning. A healthy lifestyle means taking care of your body, especially your teeth.

 

A healthy lifestyle means taking time off for your family. A healthy lifestyle means taking time off for your pets. A healthy lifestyle means making time for those in need. A healthy lifestyle means taking time off for God.

 

A healthy lifestyle means getting enough physical exercise, such as running, swimming, cycling or farming. A healthy lifestyle means getting enough mental exercise, such as reading, watching educational videos or arithmetic. A healthy lifestyle means getting enough spiritual exercises, such as praying.

 

A healthy lifestyle does not mean working around the clock. A healthy lifestyle does not mean letting silly things stress you out: take life one step at a time and let go of what is too much for you. A healthy lifestyle does not mean too much alcohol consumption. A healthy lifestyle does not mean smoking cigarettes.

 

Example two: The use of the pronoun.

 

A healthy lifestyle means getting enough sleep. It means taking the time to eat healthy meals, especially meals that constitute a balanced diet. It means taking the time to eat fruits and vegetables, especially in the morning. It means taking care of your body, especially your teeth.

 

It means taking time off for your family. It means taking time off for your pets. It means making time for those in need. It means taking time off for God.

 

It means getting enough physical exercise, such as running, swimming, cycling or farming. It means getting enough mental exercise, such as reading, watching educational videos or arithmetic. It means getting enough spiritual exercises, such as praying.

 

A healthy lifestyle does not mean working around the clock. It does not mean letting silly things stress you out: take life one step at a time and let go of what is too much for you. It does not mean too much alcohol consumption. It does not mean smoking cigarettes.

Just as an engineer decides on one tool over the other, so in writing, you have to decide which “tool” is better in making your writing sound better.

Related: Repetition in Poetry

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