I spend a fair amount of time talking about filter words. That is because they plague me without mercy. Some would say they are the hallmark of a bad writer, others would say even the best writers fall prey to them. So what exactly are they?
They are lazy words, extra words and useless words that creep into a sentence too often. They take the place of words with more literary value.
Here are some of the most common ones I find in my writing
- Thought, Think, to think
- See, to see, saw
- feel, to feel, felt
- look, looked
- to be able to
- hear, heard
- a bit
There are lists aplenty online that have others and explanations. Basically, they can make a sentence stale and or repetitive. These little words can suck the life out of a sentence faster than you can say “I’m pretty sure I believe they seem to be actually very useless words.”
Here are some actual examples from my new story and how I fixed them.
Edna looked away from me and turned to her son. “You really have to stop bringing the stray’s home Tray, you’re not a boy anymore. I’m pretty sure you can’t fix this one.”
Edna released me from her trance and turned to her son. “You must stop bringing the stray’s home Tray, you’re not a boy anymore. You can’t fix this one.”
Not only did I chop out the filter words but I made Edna more of a bitch, which is good for portraying her character.
The next has a lot wrong with it.
Furious, Edna simply told me to sit and be quiet. I didn’t really get a chance to defend myself. I sat with a thud on the cheap chair that felt very lumpy and looked at my phone wondering what to do. I realized she doesn’t seem to understand and doesn’t want to listen to reason.
That needs some rearranging and fixing for certain.
Here it is fixed;
Furious, Edna pointed at the lumpy cheap chair.”Sit and be quiet.”
She didn’t give me a chance to defend myself. I sat with a thud and scowled at my phone like a sulky child. What do I do? She doesn’t understand and won’t listen to reason.
That’s better and gets to the point.
Filter words are best found in editing if they are highlighted. I do this all the time. I also highlight overused words like I, me, myself, said, ate, eat, drink, smelled etc… Overused words are easy to find as they are a type of filter words. I explain how I search and find them in Well colour me silly.
Not all filter words are bad, sometimes they fit into the sentence perfectly and belong there. Sometimes, rarely, but if I find myself excusing too many of them, I go back(Change their colours) and look at them again. It can be as simple as deleting them or as complicated as rewriting a sentence or even paragraph. It’s worth it.
My advice about filter words
Find them and then find a better value than them. They are easy to find once you start looking and you will be better off without them.
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