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Striking the Surplus from Tautologies (Follow-Up 2)

In response to comments from our readers, last week we revisited our late April newsletter article on tautologies by re-examining vast majority. Today, we’ll conclude our review by looking more closely at two more terms:

Contested Tautology #2: Identical Match

This noun phrase presents a similar issue to that raised among readers for vast majority. The question lies in whether we need a modifier to establish the degree of the noun for clarity—in particular, a partial match as opposed to an identical match.

Here we find another case where spoken idiom intrudes on careful, accurate writing. In speech, we all understand the speaker’s intent behind phrases such as a partial or an identical match. For instance, the distinction can enhance understanding in contexts involving forensic evidence (a partial fingerprint match).

For the word match, we’ll once again consider common definitions from popular sources:

1. a person or thing that equals or resembles another in some respect.
3. a person or thing that is an exact counterpart of another.

1a: a person or thing equal to or similar to another
1c: an exact counterpart

Another useful website for word definitions, ninjawords.com, offers this:

“Someone [or something] with a measure of an attribute equaling or exceeding the object of comparison.”

We concede that a partial vs. an identical match can add clarity through speech. We also maintain our stance that writing affords more time and thought to be specific to the reader’s benefit.

Using the definitions provided as our points of reference, we wouldn’t want to pair the concept of partial with the defined exact (also a synonym of identical), nor would we want to combine it with the idea of equaling or exceeding.

Even the more elastic definitions (dictionary.com 1 and Merriam-Webster 1a) discount the idea of partial by allowing space for a simple resemblance or similarity, making a partial match still a match.

As we did for vast majority last week, we recommend that writers who still wish to use partial or identical match be specific in how the match is so. Otherwise, English offers other words and phrases for delivering the idea—e.g., replace partial match with resemblance or similarity; replace identical match with just identical or perhaps exactly the same.

Contested Tautology #3: Invited Guest

A few of our readers also pointed out that a person can be a guest without being invited, such as at a restaurant or a hotel. This in turn would negate invited guest as a tautology.

Here once more we adjust our position by expanding it. We accept that a guest can be at a party or a place of hospitality or entertainment without an invitation (although with today’s aggressive marketing through multiple channels, even the question of invitation can remain open). We also believe that guest in this context is used to achieve professional formality; more accurate words in principle would be patron or customer.

If on the other hand the guest in question is one who visits a home, event, or function by invitation, the noun and its modifier would be redundant and therefore a tautology.

Thanks again to all of you who reviewed, considered, and responded to this topic. Together, we make a strong team of advocates for clear, precise, and grammatical communication—i.e., iron sharpening iron. We look forward to more exchanges with you!

Because of the e-newsletter’s large readership, please submit your comments or questions regarding today's (or any past) article through GrammarBook.com’s Grammar Blog

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