Unless you’re accomplished in the arts of rhetoric, today’s word is probably going to be a revelation to you. Here’s the definition:
I know what you’re going to ask next, because it’s something which has confused me for ages, namely, “Isn’t that the same as tautology?”. Let’s see:
It certainly sounds similar. But the key difference is that while a tautology expresses the same idea twice, as in, “It was 4 am in the morning”, a pleonasm refers mainly to an idea articulated using too many words, for example, “He wrote an autobiography of his own life”. But the above definition isn’t very helpful in illustrating that distinction. In fact, I believe Chambers’ example of a tautology to be a pleonasm. But who am I to question the great authority, eh? (Actually, I’m exactly one to question a great authority. I’ve written to Chambers in an attempt to get this ironed out once and for all)
If you’re not crystal clear on that (and in that case you’re in good company), just get this one thing straight: a pleonasm is not at all the same as a neoplasm.
Lynn is the founder and quality-maven-in-chief of Lexis Writing, a collective of expert writers creating high quality content and copy for businesses in the UK and beyond.