Who knew some simple and overused words can cause a sentence to flop. I didn’t until I found out that I was plagued by them. Filter words are words that are useless and often change the tone of the sentence or even put it in the wrong perspective. They filter the sentence through the point of view of the character and it makes for awkward reading. It’s a lot like parallel parking. You have a beautiful street with perfectly parked cars. Then along comes a couple rusty lemons that cram on in there, crooked and parked to close to the bumpers of other cars. It’s annoying, unsightly and can cause problems.
Example: Phillip saw the motorbike go by way too fast and thought it was so loud, he felt it in his teeth.
Filter words: saw, way, thought, and felt.
Correction: The sound of the engine vibrated Phillips teeth as the motorbike sped by.
From 21 words to 13. It may not be how you would rewrite it, but that’s okay.
Clearly, they can be a pain. So what did I do about them?
First, I searched for lists of Filter words, super easy to do.
Second, I used the search feature and one by one went through finding all of them. I evaluated the sentence and either removed, replaced or rewrote the sentence. This took weeks to do.
After a while, I would come across a sentence like the example above. I learned to recognize the poorly parked words, and pull them all out all at once. There were times when I would revisit a sentence a few times because of different words and I would laugh at myself, fix it properly, and keep going.
This filter word removal was incredibly useful. It allowed me to see and familiarize myself with the useless words and learn not to use them. (That’s the theory, I’ll probably still use them.) I was able to take my word count down to a reasonable level by removing and replacing these words.
Here are some of the ones I overused.
Saw – 139
Thought – 212
Know – 414 (knowing, Know, and knows)
See – 244 (Seen, seeing, sees)
Had – 653
I discovered the trick with filter words is to go right to the root. Instead of searching all the variables as with Know, knowing, known, knows, I only searched “Know” and got them all. So for, looked, looks and looking I searched “look”. You get the idea. Tedious yes, but man, it was fun to shape and reshape my sentences.
Did I have to get rid of all of them? No of course not, just the ones that snuck in and didn’t belong. I still have a few to go through, however, they are minor and seem to be within a conversation. As long as it’s how that character speaks I’m fine leaving them.
My advice about filter words.
I found it easier to use the “find” feature, and search and repair one by one. Don’t sweat them as you write I didn’t. This is part of what I call the “shampoo process of editing”. I can’t speak for other writers, but by the end, you might just find a bunch of unwanted words parked in your sentences. Don’t worry about it, they will help you write better as you pull them out. At least they did for me.
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