Cleveland, Ohio, ... Cleveland, Ohio, ... Cleveland, Ohio ...



27 February 2015

Our last post considered the subject of useful redundancy. Before we abandon this track, let's turn the train around and head it in the other direction. Whether it's Cleveland in Ohio we're writing about or anywhere else on the globe, a reader's train of thought will stall in the weeds when it hits the state of Pointless Redundancy.

We've all labored through writing that seems to have been written by a robot. We're reading, say, a biographical sketch of Senator John Whozit of the Buckeye State. Every time a Cleveland-based event is mentioned for him, the writer tells us all over again that it occurred in Cleveland, Ohio. It doesn't take long before we're carping at the author who is nowhere within hearing distance: "Yeah, dude, by now I'm totally aware that the Cleveland town he lived in is not in Mississippi, Tennessee, or North Dakota!"

So, what's the rule for identifying place names? There's not one, really. As with most issues of clear and graceful writing, we have to make these decisions for ourselves on a thought-by-thought basis.

There are, however, basic conventions. In this case:

  • When you first introduce a new place: identify it fully.
  • After that, ask yourself whether the reader needs to have the state repeated in order to understand the location or circumstance you are discussing. If not, then don't.

Clear writing and graceful writing call for the same thing: thoughtful writing. Line by line.

PHOTO CREDITS: "Historic Train on Display in Nafplion," Wikimedia Commons ( : accessed 12 February 2015), photo by Xocalatl, uploaded 10 April 2008; used under Wikimedia Commons license.