2010
Sep 30

Repetition. What repetition?

by Hannah Holt »

Comments Off on Repetition. What repetition?


Bruce Coville has called repetition “one of the Seven Deadly Sins for Writers.”

So, why do so many picture books use repetition? Are all of these authors sinners? Not necessarily.

Repetition can be an powerful and enjoyable pedagogical tool for very young children. Here’s just one example where repetition (of the dinner bell) produced extreme excitement in my young son:

Of course, whether repetition is a tool or crutch depends on its use.

Evil Uses of Repetition

1) Plagiarism

2) Lazy writing (It was a special day. Jane picked up her special toy, and walked to her special place…)

3) Cliché

4) Inane refrains like this:

Effective Uses of Repetition

1) Poetic refrains

2) Transition signals

3) Establishing an authentic narrative voice (e.g., you have a child narrator)

Going back to the video of my son, once we discovered his predictable dinner bell response, we abused the bell for our amusement. We rang it often and didn’t always give him food afterwards. Consequently, he soon stopped running every time it rang. Overused repetition in writing creates the same sort of disinterest, and DULLNESS is the #1 Deadly Sin for writers.

So when using repetition, ask the questions:

-What is the intended response?

-Am I accomplishing my intended response?

-What is the most effective language and set-up?

Now, how many times did I use the word repetition in this post?


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