Category Archives: redundancy

Usage Tuesday: PIN Numbers and ATM Machines

This one comes up a LOT when I’m discussing linguistic pet peeves with others, but I’m not the one who brings it up. It seems the uses of ATM Machine and PIN Number really bother people, because the M in machine stands for machine, making the unabbreviated phrase automatic teller machine machine. Similarly, PIN Number means personal identification number number.

I don’t know why, but this doesn’t bother me. I am sure there’s a very, very reasonable explanation for my not being bothered by these redundancies (or by VIN Number), but I can’t come up with it. Yes, redundancies bother the snot out of me, but I wonder why this one, which seems to stem simply from people’s trying to explain something clearly (What kind of machine? ATM machine! Which number? PIN number!), bothers so many people while these redundancies seems to bother most people not at all when they are the result of people’s trying to sound smarter, more eloquent, or, or, or something!

So what about you? Are you one of those people who grind their teeth whenever someone says she needs to make a stop at the ATM machine? And if you are, are you similarly bothered by each and every or every single?

Two Redundancies

Here’s a quickie for Thursday.

  • Each and every child in the homeless shelter received a gift that Christmas.
  • He said a prayer for every single one of them.

We hear and say these phrases so often now that we don’t even think about the fact that these sentences both contain redundancies. Each and every is a redundancy because each means exactly the same thing as every. Rewrite the sentence with one or the other and you’ll see that the meaning is unchanged:

  • Each child in the homeless shelter received a gift that Christmas.
  • Every child in the homeless shelter received a gift that Christmas.

Neither of these sentences is distinguishable in meaning from the one in the example. Please don’t use each and every in your writing!

Similarly, single one is a redundancy because single means the same as one. Eliminate the single and you have a much better sentence: “He said a prayer for every one of them.”

If you look around, you’ll notice many other silly redundancies we hear every day. Tighten up your writing by recognizing them and not using them.