Let’s Talk About Redundancies ‘Any’ and ‘Reason Why’

redundancies AS and REASON WHYRegular blog followers probably know how I feel about redundancies. In terms of language, redundant means unnecessary, not required or called for.

The best writing uses the fewest words to express a thought. That’s why I’m targeting both any and reason why in this post.

Any

Any is a determiner, a word that comes before a noun and indicates how much or how little of that noun is being considered.

There are times when any is appropriate. If you deleted any in these examples, they would sound awkward or incomplete:

Have you heard any news?

I couldn’t find any means of escape.

If you see any sign of the rain letting up, call me.

I won’t speak to him under any circumstance.

 

Now consider if could you delete any and not change the meaning of these sentences:

I don’t want any ice cream with my pie.

Serious readers routinely look up any words they don’t know.

Please forward this to any authors who want to improve their writing.

You can’t have any dogs in the pool.

 

Here’s a use of any I see almost every day, often at the close of an email:

 

Please let me know if you have any questions.

 

How does that differ from “Please let me know if you have questions”?

 

Any has a role in the English language, but I encourage you to include it only when it clarifies the meaning of a statement.

 

Reason Why 

Consider how often you could delete why and not change the meaning of these sentences:

 

What is the reason why she rode her bike to the meeting?

Here’s the real reason why Starbucks uses the serving designations Tall, Grande, and Venti.

Tell me the reason why there are no raises for bus drivers next year.

He knows the reason why he wasn’t invited.

 

Now consider ways to rephrase the sentences to eliminate reason why:

 

Why did she ride her bike to the meeting?

Here’s the real reason Starbucks chose serving designations Tall, Grande, and Venti.

Why are there no raises for bus drivers next year?

He knows why he wasn’t invited.

Disagreement Abounds

If you disagree with me on reason why, you’re not alone. My online research yielded plenty of grammarians who defend it. Here is one of the strongest and most detailed:

 

The Reason Why This Is Correct

 

Others agree with my take on it. Mark Nichol posts in a Daily Writing Tips blog:

Yes, “the reason why” and “the reason is because” are redundant — guilty as charged. In place of “I want to know the reason why you took my book,” one can write “I want to know the reason (that) you took my book,” “I want to know why you took my book,” or “I want to know your reason for taking my book.”

I will continue to avoid combining reason and why in my own writing but will forgive the combination when I am editing that of others.

And I as the Ruthless Editor will continue to avoid using reason why in my writing. However, I most likely will suggest that others find ways to avoid the word combination as well.

What do you think? I welcome your comments.

Like it? Share it!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

6 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Redundancies ‘Any’ and ‘Reason Why’

  1. Avatarwilliam

    Kathy, I agree. However….

    May I suggest replacing “redundant” with “pleonasm”? It has the advantages of being a noun, not an adjective; and its roots are Greek, not Latin. Having studied both in my youth (I think they were still living tongues), I’ve always preferred things Greek.

    Reply
    1. Kathy WatsonKathy Watson Post author

      William, I’m afraid that most of my blog followers probably have not studied both Greek and Latin (Nor have I!). “Pleonasm” is a lovely noun, but I suspect that more people recognize “redundancy.” However, I always enjoy hearing from you.

  2. AvatarBeth

    Interesting discussion! I appreciate that you also referred to the rival point of view. What I get from reading your post and the other is that while “reason why” is not ungrammatical it is not necessary and can be eliminated in the interest of simpler writing.

    Reply
    1. Kathy WatsonKathy Watson Post author

      Beth, exactly. We often have grammatical choices, as there are more guidelines than there are rules. I try to stress consistency for the sake of your readers.

  3. AvatarKathy

    I totally agree with you regarding the combination of reason and why. Thanks for emphasising that. Thanks for clarifying when the use of ‘any’ is redundant and when it is not. I am guilty of using it redundantly but from now on…!

    Reply
    1. Kathy WatsonKathy Watson Post author

      Kathy, thank you for taking time to comment. It’s hard to change longtime habits, but awareness is the first step. You can do it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *