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Mimishu1995's avatar

How frequently can a word be used before it's considered repetition, in both spoken and written texts (details inside)

Asked by Mimishu1995 (20189points) November 25th, 2020

I think the title is a bit hard to understand, because I don’t know how to word it, so I’m going to provide the context for this question.

My friend and I were having an argument about word repetition while I was checking her answers for a couple of speaking questions for the IELTS. She wrote her answers down on Word and I was looking through it. The question was “what qualities do you think you need in order to be selected for a space mission?” So I corrected her document, and it read something like this: “I think there are three main qualities I need to go on a space mission. Firstly, I think I need high intelligence…” My friend told me to rewrite that because I repeated the phrase “I think”. I told her this is a spoken text, and beside this is the part of the exam where you have to answer everything immediately after it is asked, so you won’t have that much time to think about word repetition as long as it’s not serious, nor do anyone cares. She disagreed with me, saying that we have to avoid word repetition as much as possible to earn points, and that is what I’m here to teach her. I said it’s not possible to teach something that isn’t technically feasible in the first place. She still wasn’t convinced and kept telling me to change.

I thought about our conversation for some time. The conversation does provoke in me an interesting question: what is the line between a normal sounding conversation and word repetition? I know a lot of IELTS teachers tell their students to try to avoid using the same words too many times, but that is because the students need to show how much vocabulary they have and avoid making their texts sound boring. But if you are so focused on using different words every time, your speech will become extremely unnatural, which will certainly put the examiner off. But I still don’t know how much is too much. After all, this is a common problem with Engrish.

Who is in the right? My friend or me?

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5 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

22 times in a 23 word sentence !

Maybe less in a 10 word sentence.

Three times in a paragraph is too much.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Your command of the language is so pronounced, that I believe the best answer to your question is that you can trust your judgement regarding excessive repetition. Your friend is mistaken. But promise me that you will banish the ear mangling word “firstly” from your quiver. It’s a horrible “tell” and equivalent to an “ahoogah!” Horn on a Ferrari

Zaku's avatar

Yeah, trust your own judgement. Rules tend to be for people who have issues they aren’t capable of understanding and handling themselves (and over-applying rules can cause worse problems, as you rightly reasoned), but I agree with stan the man that you are.

One frequent style suggestion though is to consider avoiding writing “I think” qualifiers at all, as it can usually be clear from context that what you are writing is what you think, and writing “I think” can weaken your assertion.

(On the other hand, in my experience when dealing with people prone to misunderstand what you write as an overstatement or invalidation of their opinions, such as in an Internet discussion, that writing “I think” or “I feel that” etc can help reduce the risk of arguments.)

Dutchess_III's avatar

You’ll know it when you see it. Trust yourself.

doyendroll's avatar

I think that I wouldn’t have used ‘I think’ once in that answer let alone have used ‘I think’ twice in that answer.

Repetition is using the same word(s) more than once.

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