Do you use too many filler words in your writing?

Reading time: About 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world for material to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about filler words…

When I use the phrase “filler words” I bet you think of spoken ones. Word like, “umm,” “err,” “so,” “okay,” and, “you know.

Yes, those are bad expressions to use when you’re speaking. They make you sound unsure, indecisive, and perhaps poorly educated.

But there are also filler words people use when writing. I reflected on this issue after reading a recent post in the Write Life blog, under the headline, “4 Ways To Avoid Using Filler Words In Your Writing.”

Writer Jackie Pearce begins by defining filler woods and giving a useful list of examples:

  • Really
  • Very
  • Highly
  • Just
  • Like
  • As you know
  • However
  • Finally
  • In conclusion
  • You know
  • You see
  • Right
  • In my opinion
  • I guess
  • I mean
  • Seriously
  • Literally
  • Totally
  • As mentioned

While I might quibble with her use of the word “however” (I find it a useful “transition” word showing a change in direction), I agree with all the other terms Pearce cites. Here’s how she suggests eliminating them:

#1 – Get everything out of your brain: don’t fret about filler words when you’re writing. Just put them on the page. It’s better to remove them later, when you’re editing.

#2 – See if you can cut every sentence in half: Giving yourself the mental challenge of reducing your word count by a bracing 50% will help you let go of words that don’t pull their weight.

#3 – Figure out what are filler words and what are necessary words: Don’t be arbitrary about removing words. Sometimes words like “however” are helpful. (I just about wrote, “actually helpful” but then deleted the “actually.”)

#4 – Use an editing tool: Editing tools are particularly useful for identifying unnecessary words. The tool I highly recommend is ProWritingAid.

Filler words only make your readers work harder and put them at the risk of becoming bored. Do them a favour and remove them.

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