The Redundant ‘Reason Why’

yelling woman (who had enough of bad grammar already)“Reason why” is redundant. Do you hear me? It’s redundant!

I sometimes refer to the Three C’s of effective writing: Clear, Concise, and grammatically Correct.

Concise writing is comprehensive but to the point, using the fewest words to achieve understanding. It is free of repetition and needless detail.

That’s why the reason why seems redundant to me. (Reminder: As it relates to words, redundant means something that can be omitted without loss of meaning or function.)

But not everyone thinks so. Consider these story headings I found online:

The Reason Why All The Songs On The Radio Sound The Same Might Make You Blush
The Reason Why You’re Always Getting Back Together
The Reason Why There Is No Wage Growth For 83% Of US Workers

Does why add clarity to any of these headlines? Here they are again without why. Does the meaning change? Do they seem incomplete?

The Reason All The Songs On The Radio Sound The Same Might Make You Blush
The Reason You’re Always Getting Back Together
The Reason There Is No Wage Growth For 83% Of US Workers

I did a quick Google search before I started writing this blog, and I was surprised to find some respectable online grammar sources that think it’s perfectly fine to use reason why. Here’s a sample from Grammarphobia:

Q: Whence comes the ubiquitous redundancy “the reason why”? Isn’t “reason” itself sufficient to the task?

A: Yes, “reason” is sufficient to the task, but we see nothing wrong with “reason why.” In fact, we sometimes use the phrase on our blog. And we’re not alone in this.

If reason is sufficient, why add why? Consider these examples:

He explained the reason why he left his post early.
The reason why she called me was to tell me her dog had run away.
Fear of theft is one reason why some chefs take their knives home at night.

Again, does why add anything but clutter to these statements? Does it improve understanding or change the meaning?

We’re bombarded with words and messages day in, day out. Let’s work harder at eliminating redundancies and clutter.

I don’t care that other grammarians think reason why is acceptable. I hold to my position that following reason with why is indeed redundant.

What do you think? Are you with me on this?


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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)