Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


(English 101 flashbacks)
Warning: Educational content follows.

I start my mornings (after Dylan the alarm cat has jumped on me) by skimming the Roanoke Times while sipping my first cup of coffee. (Yes, I am lucky enough to have a husband who gets the paper and makes the coffee!)

After I feed and water the horses and dogs (and play ball with an insistent border collie), I return for another cup of coffee and another look at the paper.

This morning’s Jumpstart, a comic strip by Robb Armstrong, caught my attention and dragged me back to my days of teaching freshman grammar and comp.

“This one is my personal favorite,” a character says as he looks at some pictures.
“Is there another kind of favorite?” his mother asks.
“Huh?” he says.
“I can’t stand it when you say it’s your ‘personal favorite,’” his mother says. “Why can’t you just say it’s your favorite?”
“I don’t even like it anymore,” he says, flinging the pictures away.

"My personal." One of the most frequent errors I used to see on English 101 papers was “In my personal opinion . . .” and worse, “In my own personal opinion. . . .” Then the student would go on to explain whatever his/her idea was.

“If you write a paper, you’re giving your opinion,” I must have said a thousand times during my seven years as adjunct instructor of English. “If it’s your opinion, it’s personal. It’s your own.”

Still, I had to deal with students unhappy about my red lines through their “personal opinion” references. Prior to college, no one ever told them such usage was poor style. Apparently, some high school teachers let them get away with such redundancy. (Note: Perhaps the teachers did mention it, but the students didn’t listen. I’m open to discussion on this.)

Of course, “my own personal opinion” isn’t the only redundancy I used to find on student papers. “Proven fact” was another popular one. A list of common redundant expressions is on this academic site.

There’s a even term for redundancy. Commnet offers the term “pleonasm” for phrases that repeat themselves. See the extensive list at “Writing Concise Sentences.”

I’m not the only academic type who rants online about student redundancy. The “Grumpy Grammarian” rants even more than I do:

~in my own personal opinion. Good grief! Obviously, your opinion is your own, and it's unlikely that you have an impersonal opinion. Some writers even add "I think" to be certain that the (stupid) reader understands that what is about to be said is their "own personal opinion."

I’m not the only blogger ranting about the problem. Grammar Gulch’s “Superfluous, Unnecessary Redundancy” is one. Jalli’s House is another.

I’m a disciple of William Zinsser and consider his On Writing Well essential reading for those who want to write concisely. Using pleonasms, such as “my own personal opinion,” isn’t concise writing.

That’s my personal opinion. And it’s my own.



Blogger House on the Glade Hill said...


Thanks for the warning of EC to follow. I was feeling very spongy today (able to retain information) so I read on.

I had never considered this as a redundant issue before, but as I have said, this writing thing is kinda new to me (at least being paid for it is).

In my personal opinion... jk!
Thanks for the free English Lesson!

LOL - Amy H

4:26 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

Funny last lines.

I better get out my On Writing Well and reread it.

9:17 AM  

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