I came across this text in an article and I thought something about it interrupted my reading flow:

"They've also shown an inability to close when they get close,..."

The context is about particular professional golfers who struggle with making a strong finish in a tournament (closing out the event) when they are near (close) to the lead.

I don't think there is an issue with the sound of the words or their meaning, but seeing the exact same word twice so close together but with different meanings feels sort of clunky.

If I were an editor (and there's probably a good reason I'm not), I would change one "close" to a different word.

My question is: Is this formally considered bad style?

I'm curious to hear 3 different types of answers:

  • opinions (my opinion is that this is clunky and should be avoided)
  • references to formal English language material, similar to The Elements of Style (I don't recall this topic being addressed there)


  • professional experience in a distinct writing domain eg local news reporting or publishing academic papers
  • 1
    Although there are cases where using them together for the effect is desired, my take (and practice) is that you want to avoid having homographs near each other where reasonably possible. It just sounds odd to have them.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 2:43
  • 1
    Maybe it is the late hour, but I like it in this case.
    – ab2
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 3:41
  • 1
    @ab2 Don't you mean "Maybe it is the late hour, but I think a case can be made for it in this case"?
    – deadrat
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 4:42
  • 1
    @deadrat to throw gas on the fire, I think in your example, your 2 uses of "case" are so similar it's redundant... in the "close" example, I think the meanings are more different... In the first "case" ;), "close" means the act of closing or shutting, but in the second case, "close" simply refers to spacial proximity. I think in your example, even though the two uses of "case" are different, I see them as the same word, whereas I think "close" (the act of closing) and "close" (near) are distinctly different words. Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 5:25
  • 1
    @parker.sikand The first "case" means a reasoned argument; the second means an instance. Too close to close? I think when you fire off a comment you indeed add gas to the fire, and I find that's a real gas. <tap> <tap> Is this microphone on?
    – deadrat
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 5:40

1 Answer 1


My opinion is that using the same written word twice, in close proximity, shows a lack of effort on the part of the writer. Regardless of the meanings of the two instances.

  • @PeterShor - Do you have a more general rule to suggest, involving using two words in close proximity that share the same root? Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 13:00
  • So Leo Tolstoy showed a certain lack of effort when he wrote "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"? Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 13:00

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