This is essentially a problem of redundancy or repetition, as we'll see in a moment. But first, let's talk about why this is a problem. Any time you pause the flow of the narrative to explain something to the reader, the pacing lags. This can happen in ways both big and small, from large backstory dumps to tiny repetitions. But it's not just a pacing issue. It sends a subtle message to the reader that the author doesn't trust her own skills enough to communicate something clearly the first time through. It builds boredom and uncertainty into the text. Not a desired outcome, right?
So let's look at a couple of examples.
The Unnecessary SummaryCarla slipped into her raincoat and grabbed her purse and umbrella. Then she turned her back on the front door, and starting on the right wall, made a full circuit of her house. She checked all the light switches to be sure they were off. She unplugged the stereo, looping the cord across the top of the cabinet so it would be easy to reach the next time she wanted to listen to music. In the kitchen, she turned each stove burner as far to the right as it would go, and she made sure the toaster and coffeemaker were both unplugged. Carla never left the house without checking all plugs and switches. She was very cautious about doing anything that might start a fire.
Okay, it's a boring example, but it illustrates the point. We have action to start the paragraph. The final two sentences summarize what she did in the action sentences at the start of the paragraph. First, we watch her actively check the plugs and switches. Then, the author tells us that she checks the plugs and switches. It's repetitive, and we don't need that final bit of restatement that summarizes all the preceding action. Dump it.
The Double-Down"I'm going to make a pot of coffee." Carla made a pot of coffee.
Sometimes, an author will reveal a trivial detail twice, using different narrative elements each time. Here, we have dialogue followed by action. Both accomplish the same task, to inform the reader that Carla is making coffee. Unless these are magical coffee beans or laced with arsenic or something, there's no reason to place this much narrative attention on them. And even if the are magic or poison, it's better to replace one of these redundant statements with something a little different. Maybe something like,
"I'm going to make a pot of coffee." And she'd make sure that bastard swallowed every drop.
"But wait!" the new writer says. "How will the reader know she actually made the coffee if I don't say so? She said she was GOING to make it. She didn't say that she MADE it. Different things, right?"
This cuts right to the heart of the confidence problem I mentioned above. If the character says, "I'm thirsty," in paragraph one, and then is holding a glass of ice water in paragraph five, the reader will understand what happened there. No need to show the character getting the glass, cracking the ice tray, running the tap, and so on. If the ice water is thematic or symbolic, you might want to give it this kind of narrative attention, but for the most part, there's no real point to super-detailed explanations of trivial actions. Hit the high points, and trust your reader to understand what's happening. You don't have to explain every minor step along the way.
What other things do you see in manuscripts that might fall under the "R.U.E." category?