Department of Redundancy Department

Situation

On the day before Thanksgiving I received an email from “Today on Twitter” (info@twitter.com). The subject line read:

“#Ferguson: Protesters flood streets across U.S. as dismay spreads coast to coast, officer Darren Wilson breaks silence for the first time”

Question

A sad and tragic story, obviously. Yet the last part caught my attention: “breaks silence for the first time.” This ordinal qualifier suggests the story could have been about Officer Wilson’s breaking his silence at some time other than for the first time.

I didn’t know you could break a silence more than once. Once silence is broken, it stays broken, doesn’t it?

Lesson

“Omit needless words.” — The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. Twitter’s subject line could have ended with “officer Darren Wilson breaks silence” (or “breaks his silence”).

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