The key to being a good writer is to know your audience. On the ACT English test, the audience you’re writing to is, well, ACT.

Something important to note about the ACT is that they prefer a clear, concise style of writing. In general, the more to-the-point, the better. This doesn’t necessarily mean the shortest answer is always the correct answer, though. Truthfully, it depends on the sentence and what its main idea is.

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When it comes to choosing answers on the ACT, if it can be said in a simpler way, it’s probably not the correct choice.

What is Redundancy?

Redundancy, related to wordiness, is your enemy on the ACT. Redundancy is essentially the addition of extra fluff that is not necessary to the effectiveness of the sentence. Sometimes it’s repeating the same point in different ways, sometimes it’s using synonyms with the same meaning right next to each other. Either way, it does not help reach the goal of clear and concise writing.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of redundancy in writing:

However, contrary to popular opinion, boneless wings are just wet chicken nuggets.

Can this be said in a shorter way without losing meaning? Yes.

Are any parts of this sentence basically saying the same thing, and therefore redundant? Also Yes.

‘However’ and ‘contrary to’ essentially mean the same thing, so you only need one to get your point across, there’s no need to restate the same thing. Using both at once plagues the sentence with redundancy, and breaks the clear and concise rule before you even get to the wet chicken nugget part.

Which part could be eliminated from this sign to make it less redundant?

I just love unexpected surprises!

Wanna know something unexpected?


Surprises are unexpected.

You could simplify this sentence by dropping ‘unexpected’ entirely. It’s implied that surprises are unexpected without saying they are, and you don’t need it to make your point.

It should be noted that redundancy does have a place in everyday language. Often, redundant phrases sound correct because we say them all the time in real life. Be ready for ACT to get tricky with that, and keep in mind how much they love clarity and keeping it concise.

Redundancy on the ACT

You might be wondering: how do I know when the ACT is testing for redundancy? They won’t make it clear with neon lights and pointing arrows, after all. You’ll have to be on the lookout for redundancy at all times while taking the ACT. If any part of the sentence in question could be said with fewer words or by eliminating synonyms, it could be redundant.

Let’s try a practice ACT question:

Carla is always adding additional items to her shopping cart to get free shipping.


B. Carla always adds items

C. Carla frequently adds extra things

D. Carla pays more for additional items added


A – Right off the bat, they hit us with “adding additional”. Essentially the same word, just with different suffixes, so we know it’s redundant. This can’t be the correct answer because redundancy is never correct on the ACT.

B – Simple, clean, gets the point across.

C – This one is better than the original sentence, but ‘adds’ implies something extra, outside of what Carla is already buying. Therefore, ‘adds’ doesn’t need ‘extra’ to get the point across clearly and concisely. While not as bad as “adding additional”, it’s still not without redundancy, so C is incorrect.

D – It’s redundant at this point: ‘addition’ and ‘added’ or any variation of the word ‘add’ used more than once in a sentence is not concise. You get the point, so D is incorrect.

That leaves us with choice C. Clear, concise, to the point, and the best option to correct this sentence.

An easy way to tell if the question you’re stuck on involves redundancy is to see if the answer choices are grammatically correct or not. If every choice is grammatically correct, there’s a good chance it’s not a grammar question, but rather a style question. Commonly, this category of question on the ACT is testing your knowledge of redundancy and how to fix it.

Sunday is one of the seven days in a week, so they didn’t need to waste all that paint on redundant language.

How to Fix Redundancy in Writing

The easiest way to fix redundancy is to prioritize concise writing. Take out details that are unnecessary, and look out for synonyms in the same sentence.

Let’s look at another example:

She combed her hair meticulously and carefully.

In this sentence, meticulously and carefully mean exactly the same thing, so you only need one of them to get your point across. This sentence would be incorrect on the ACT and needs revision.

You may be tempted to write using fancy synonyms and sentence structure to impress the graders at the ACT, but keep your audience in mind. They don’t care how many synonyms you know with the same meaning, they want the most direct path to the point. Vocab stuffing for the sake of vocab stuffing will get you nowhere in standardized testing. Save that for your blog.

Redundancy vs. Wordiness

Similar to redundancy, wordiness is frequently tested on the SAT and ACT. Wordiness is beating around the bush and fluffing up sentences to add detail, whether it’s necessary or not. However, as we know, you should prioritize clear and concise language on the ACT and SAT.

Feel free to stuff your writing with as much detail as your heart desires outside of the testing room, but during the ACT, say it clearly, and say it quickly.

Here is an example of wordiness so you know what to look out for:

Francesca likes tacos, but sometimes she thinks they’re too spicy and wishes they had less seasoning.

The underlined portion of this sentence could be said in a much simpler way. The fewer words the better, while maintaining grammatical correctness. You could say:

Francesca likes tacos, but sometimes they’re too spicy for her taste.

All points of the sentence are still made, we just used fewer words. If an answer choice is grammatically correct and says essentially the same thing with fewer words, there’s a good chance it’s correct.

Final Thoughts

Similar to the SAT, the ACT prefers a clear, concise style of writing. Wordiness and redundancy are the opposite of clear and concise, so you should always be on the lookout for them during the test.

Wordiness takes too long to get to the point and redundancy says the same thing more than once unnecessarily. The best way to fix redundancy is to make sure all words in a sentence are intentional and functional, without clouding the meaning or getting repetitive.


Kirsten Mann
Kirsten is the Operations Coordinator at Test Geek. She has a 35 on the ACT Reading Test and enjoys sarcasm and pop culture references.

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