Regular 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 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.
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.
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:
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!