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Why is the returnVal parameter being defined as an empty string on the distance method?

The default value of the returnVal is set to an empty string in Doc.java, so surely this is inherited into the MathUtils.java class. In the video Chris set it equal to an empty string again - is this not breaking DRY principles or is there a reason to do it?

edit: Treehouse seems to have not linked this question to the relevant video so here is a link