Filtering Filter Words

Filtering filter words post

Filtering Filter Words

Oh, those pesky Filter words. I talk about them a lot and for a good reason as I discussed in Filtering Out Those Filter WordsIt’s really very unnecessary and I’m ‘that’ kind of writer. Filter words are words that can easily be filtered out because they don’t have a significant impact on the sentence. They are crutch words that can make a sentence lazy, repetitive or even boring.

I will go through a story using the “search and replace” feature to highlight all the filter words in various colors as I mentioned in Well, color me silly.

Along with filter words I include are all ending in ING and all adverbs ending in LY. I also include exclamation points ! and question marks ?. Adverbs weaken sentences that have much more potential. I highlight ! because people don’t yell nearly as, much as they might be written to shout. Also, I try to limit the amount of rhetorical or narrative questions. In dialogue, they are fine, but I try not to pepper too many into the narrative.

So what are they? I have a long list of words that I have compiled over the years. Words that I tend to stick to sentences instead of better words. I lean on some more than others. Here they are listed in alphabetical order with the number of incidences that occurred for each within a book I’m currently re-writing, editing and revising. I like to multitask on the first modification of the first draft. The book is only 30,627 words, so these numbers are not too bad. I am looking to beef this story up and add a lot more words, but I don’t want the filter words etc. to drag the story down.

868      ing
566      was
421      ?
403      ly
343      that
174      is
158      But
152      up
145      know
145      said
113      look
109      can
108      hand
90       see
89       just
88       could
70       remember
62       think
61       head
60       eyes
59       Then
53       feel
52       very
50       ask
49       smile
49       than
46       !
46       hear
45       turn
43       down
43       move
40       been
36       – single dash
31       face
31       walk
29       try
28       well
27       bit or a bit
21       felt
21       knew
19       Really
19       saw
18       breath
18       understand
17       guess
17      reach
17       sigh
16       tried
15       touch
14       seem
14       sound
13       nod
12       grab
12       wonder
11       stare
11       watch
9        shrug
8        taste
7        realize
7        stand
6        hale (inhale exhale)
5        frown
5        somehow
4        able to
4        says
3        blink
3        however
3        notice
2        quite
2        replied
2        somewhat
1        ;
1        decide
1        experience
0        …
0        note
0        rather

Does this mean I get rid of them all? No. I will sometimes set a goal of say 50% or 75%. Depending on the word I may want to eliminate them 100%. It honestly depends on the word and how it’s used.

As you see some of those words had Zero incidences. That’s because I’ve learned. For them, they will probably stay put. I will take a look to make sure the sentence is good, but I’m not worried for any that are less than ten or zero.

The top five will always be the biggest offenders. The top ten are still the top ten. The next ten to twenty are worth taking a good look at.

I bet you’re wondering why “WAS” is up there? Voicing. Often I write WAS and IS interchangeable. I try not to do that. What I prefer to use is “IS” whenever possible. If I want WAS then I use it whenever possible. This is of course primarily for narrative, in dialogue the rules are different. I will try to keep a character consistent in their voice.

Action words such as, LOOK, SEE, TOUCH, SHRUG, SMILE, FROWN, NOD, etc. will be looked at carefully. There are better ways to describe actions and to show emotions too. These words are often found in sentences that TELL instead of SHOW.

If nothing more, I highly recommend looking at my top twenty. If you have a beta reader or if you use the feature on your word program to read your text back to you(This is awesome for finding small errors and sentence flow issues) If you use them you will notice words that you rely on too much. They may be on this list or they may not. But if you have words that appear more often than they should, it can put a reader off.

I keep track of the numbers for my own personal use. I will make a spreadsheet with the numbers from the first draft and recheck them (using the find feature) for each consequential edit or revise until I’m happy with the number of them I see.

My advice about Filter words
Find and destroy! Actually highlight them before you start editing or revising using the search and replace feature, then find a better way to write the sentence or find a better more valuable word. 

Don’t forget to check out and follow the Daily Word Prompt I host.Your Daily click

A Little Conversation Please

A Little Conversation Please

Dialogue and conversation in a book can be tricky. I happen to love dialogue and can appreciate good conversation. I talk about talking a lot. It’s important for a story to have good, believable dialogue.

There is a balance, however. Too much talk sounds unreal it can make a reader think too much or too little.  To little can leave readers bored. Dialogue is also not stationary. People don’t sit perfectly still while talking. They are always doing something. I know when I read if there is too much poof in a sentence and nothing happening I get uncomfortable and close the book. The idea of turning off a reader churns my stomach and makes me want to try harder.

Here is what too much talk in dialogue looks like.

“This looks great Tony, you did a marvellous job barbequing. You put so much effort into getting the steaks just perfect and the way I like them the best. I find that charming and sweet.”

“Anything for you Anne. You work so hard, and I know you don’t have time to do this yourself. So when I can cook for you, I do enjoy doing so.”

“Mmm, it really is perfect. I’m glad you told me what wine to pick up. I don’t know a rose from a white from a sparkling.. whatever.”

“The right wine does complement the food for certain. I know how much you love wine even if you rarely partake.”

“You do know me well.”

Soooooo…. yeah. Nothing happened, but a lot should have or did? I cant tell really because all I did was have some superfluous static conversation.

Let’s add some action tags and maybe a dialogue tag.

Tony sat across from Anne as she shuffled her chair closer to the table. “This looks great Tony, you did a marvellous job barbecuing. You put so much effort into getting the steaks just perfect and the way I like them the best. I find that charming and sweet.” She said and cut a morsel free with a sharp steak knife. 

“Anything for you Anne. You work so hard, and I know you don’t have time to do this yourself. So when I can cook for you, I do enjoy doing so.” Tony smiled and ate a mouthful. 

Anne set her fork down, swallowed and picked up her wineglass. “Mmm, it really is perfect. I’m glad you told me what wine to pick up. I don’t know a rose from a white from a sparkling.. whatever.” She said and clinked her glass with Tony’s as he held it out. 

“The right wine does complement the food for certain. I know how much you love wine even if you rarely partake.” Tony sipped and set his glass down. 
“You do know me well.” 

A bit better. Now they’re not statues. But the dialogue is so… poofy and weird for a couple. Most of that could go into a meaningful narrative or better word choices.

The narrative should be kept in the same tense from start to finish. That is if you start in the first person, keep it that way. No shifting perspectives. Now I’ll take that and add some narrative to set the scene and add some introspective to lighten the conversation load.

Tony sat across from Anne as she shuffled her chair closer to the table. When he had time, Tony preferred to barbeque a good steak and knows how Anne likes hers done. Any little thing he could do to ease her stress from work and put a smile on her face was worth it.

“This looks great,”  She said with a grin and cut a morsel free with a sharp steak knife. 

“You deserve a break.” Tony smiled and ate a mouthful.

Anne set her fork down, swallowed and picked up her wineglass. “Mmm, it’s perfect as usual Thank you. Speaking of perfect, the clerk at the store thought it was hilarious that you sent me a picture of what wine to get. We had a good chuckle that I’m wine-dumb.”

Tony held out his glass, they clinked, smiled, and both sipped generously. 

“I just didn’t want a sparkling pear concoction like you got last time.” He said and stifled a chuckle. “For someone that loves wine as much as you do it’s funny that you select purely on how cute the label is.” He blew her a kiss over the table. “While adorable it’s not a good pare with steak.” Tony sipped and set his glass down. 

“You do know me well.” Anne giggled behind her hand before cutting another bite of steak. 

So by taking out the unnecessary and unnatural dialogue, I put it into more condensed words and eased it into narrative outside the conversation. I also put some story into the dialogue to make it sound like they are talking about their day and not just each other. A couple isn’t likely to sit and complement the other gregariously.

When I write a block of dialogue and someones not giving a speech I cringe. I’ll edit, revise and revisit that chunk until I have what feels like a realistic scene. There are times when I write, and I neglect the setting, interactions in the setting and action tags. It’s important that a cement block of conversation be broken until it flows like a pure spring water creek. I personally wouldn’t be done with that last edit. I would go back and make sure each character’s personality shines and maybe set the scene with some narrative at the beginning outlining how stressed and tired Anne is, perhaps why. For simplicity, I kept the example short.

In Prophecy Ink when I edit and revise, I look for long strings of stale conversation. Sometimes its simple dialogue or complex. Either way, it needs the support of narrative, action and dialogue tags and descriptives. Even if talking on a phone a person can sigh, scratch a neck or pace.

My advice about Conversation.

It’s easy to plunk down the conversation to keep the story going. If it’s distracting to add the tags and narrative or actions do, it afterwards. That’s the magic of revision and rewriting. 


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Creative Dialogue Tags

Dialogue is my favorite part of writing. Previously I’ve talked a lot about dialogue tags and how the world has a conflicting view on how they should and should not be used.

He said, she said tags are the most common and should be used more than ‘creative tags’ but even he said she said should probably be used sparingly or only when necessary. Thus creative ones even less so. Why?  because our brains are trained to skip ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ it’s automatic, we don’t even think about it. And while the occasional creative tag is warranted too much slows the reader down and it becomes noticeable.

I generally use a mix of everything but primarily rely on conversation flow (Sans tags) or action tags. Action tags give the reader a clear vision of what the character is doing before or after what they said.

Some examples of creative dialogue tags:  (these come after he, she or the name of the character)



You get the idea. Now here are some things spoken words or dialogue cannot do. I see these words on lists and in text and personally I try to make them action tags not dialogue tags or combine them.


Yes, there are instances when one may growl out their words or cried while speaking but plopping it at the end will remove the emotion or tone from the sentence and come across as awkward. Simply saying ‘She growled’ after the dialogue might not read to others as it did you me in my head.

Example time.

“I don’t feel well.” Amber murmured.

Not terrible but not great either. This sentence has more potential than this.

Amber rubbed her stomach and murmured. “I don’t feel well.”

or if she’s moaning the words…

Amber rubbed her stomach. “I don’t feel well.” She murmured.

While not good for keeping the word count down, sometimes it’s more important to relay the message properly than to over simplify it. Apparently, the word sighed is a big one that gets used too much. While yes people do sometimes sigh while speaking it might read better if it’s not so lonesome at the end of the sentence.

“Go home then.” Scott sighed.

I’m trying to convey frustration and while he might sigh the word go and maybe home, it may also look like he sighed after the fact. Reader interpenetration.

Scott sighed. “Go home then.”

Scott absently looked up to the ceiling. “Go home then.” He said with a sigh.

In these situations when I really, really, really want to convey tone in dialogue I read it out loud a few times to make sure what I’m saying sounds like what I’ve actually written. The best way is to have someone else read it aloud to you.

I don’t mind ‘said’ but I definitely try to use them sparingly or appropriately. Every dialogue sentence does not need them.

“I don’t feel well” Amber murmured.
“Go home then,” Scott said.
Amber rubbed her stomach, opened her desk drawer and pulled out the bag of herbal tea Scott brought her as part of a gift. A week after he barged in on her at her apartment and scared her he gave her a gift basket of things to help with the morning sickness she still had bouts of. 
“I have too much work to do. I’ll just go make some tea and see if it helps.” Amber said.
“Good idea,” Scott said.
“I’ll be back in a minute. Do you want anything?” Amber asked.
“No thanks. You go take care of yourself.” Scott answered.
Amber grabbed her mug and with the tea in hand, she went to the staff room. Scott watched her leave barely containing the smile that did not match the malice in his eyes.

For me it’s too elementary with all that ‘said’ going on. I feel like the dialogue is separated from the action too. When I read I find it tedious I like to mix them.

Amber rubbed her stomach and murmured. “I don’t feel well.”
Scott absently looked up to the ceiling. “Go home then.” 
“I have too much work to do. I’ll just go make some tea and see if it helps.”
Scott watched her open her desk drawer and take out the bag of herbal tea.
“Good idea.” 
A week after he barged in on her at her apartment and scared her he brought her a gift basket of things to help with the morning sickness she still had bouts of. 
Amber grabbed her mug. “I’ll be back in a minute. Do you want anything?” 
“No thanks. You go take care of yourself.”
With the tea and mug in hand, she went to the staff room. Scott watched her leave barely containing the smile that did not match the malice in his eyes.

Sometimes when I’m rushing I’ll plop out dialogue in the, he said she said constantly way. Then I’ll go back and dress it up better in editing. While I love a good creative dialogue tag It’s a balanced blend of the classic ‘he said’ action tags, no tags and creative dialogue tags that will help a story flow. “IMO of course.” She said and winked.

My advice about creative dialogue tags.
Whether the person is murmuring, sighing or crying. Make it clear if it’s before, during or after the spoken words. Read out loud or have someone else read it to you. It helps.


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Tag! You’re it.

Show and tell

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Don’t burn the turkey!

Some would say there is a fine, delicate and balanced skill to cook the perfect turkey. The same goes for writing a book. Fresh or frozen(Genre)? How do I dress it(Content)? What temperature and for how long(Word count and style)? Moreover, how often to baste(Revise and edit)? Sure, that’s all fine and dandy for the poultry but how does that apply to my book? I need to pick the genre (Or write the genre my heart picks) Books take a lot of prep work, (even if that prep happens throughout.) Editing and revision is important, but how many times do I edit and revise? How do I know when it’s done and to take the book out and serve it to my readers?

For me I had some guidelines, a list of things I needed to accomplish.

Story flow
Word count reduction
Filter words removal(Started doing this one word at time)
Foreshadow check and instillation
POV check and correction
Action tag revision (Show not tell)
Dialog tag revision (Show not tell)

I ended up revising and reviewing BiaAtlas many times. I had others review it for me and point out the obvious, such as misspelled words (that are technically not misspelled), but clearly wrong. And then I revised again.

Word count became by biggest challenge. As a first time writer and this being my very first book it had to, I mean had to, be within an industry standard word count.

When I finished my first draft I found out my book was 15,000 words over the maximum allowable of 125,000.  Then as I went along and got it down to 125,000 with a lot of work.  I sought professional consultation and the consensus is, it needed to be below 120,000.  That was 5000 more to remove from a book I thought was done.

A little discouraged, yet determined I went about checking filter words and checking carefully for verbose descriptions. During this final review, I discovered one thing that I was stupid kinds of excited about and embarrassed over. I was up to this point reviewing one word or issue at a time. I’m not a professional editor to look for multiple infractions at a time… unless… as discussed in “Well colour me silly” I had a stroke of good fortune and had the idea to highlight all the potential trouble words at one time.

Holy Smokes! It worked!

By making all the words that might indicate a POV change or sentence issue, I was able to do one final and successful edit. I have only 704 words left to remove and 23 more chapters to go.

I made a list( A long list) Of words I know are filter, overused and issue words and made them stand out with bright colours. I made an excel file list with each chapter, the word count, how many were removed per chapter(entered as I finished), how many I had to go(This column was encouraging) and on average how many words I need to remove per chapter to achieve my goal(this changed with each line to reflect previous chapter edits)

As long as I stayed close to or over the removal average things moved along smoothly.

Now I will keep going and finish reviewing each chapter until I’m done and the further below that magic number I can get, the better chances I have of getting a Literary agent to look closer at my work and take me seriously.

I found there was some repetitiveness and verbose sentences that were easily reconstructed to lower word count and I’m beyond happy with how BiaAtlas now reads and flows.

So for me I know that BiaAtlas is nearly done roasting. Once I’m done getting the word-count down below 120,000 I will stop, take it out of the oven and let it rest(query more agents) and serve it to my guests(Get it published).

So thank you to all that bother to read, comment and like my blog posts. I appreciate every single one of you.

— an update since I pre-wrote this post on Sunday. I have 8 chapters left and I am now 233 words below the max!!  Woot woot! Now to keep going, the rest is just gravy.

My advice about not overdoing the editing.
Draw a finish line and stick to it. Know when to stop and say it’s done, potential imperfections and all. My finish line changed, I thought the turkey was done but the professional thermometer said otherwise. I adjusted and redrew my line. This time it’s firm and I’m very excited.


Related blogs

Well colour me silly

The “word count” down.

I’m ‘that’ kind of writer

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Over used and oft abused.

Ah, the word shiver. Over used and oft abused. This is on my personal list of filter words. One that is injected into a sentence to replace showing an emotion. I find it in plethora among the words of a romance, horror or mystery. Or just dumped in to lazy writing, like I’m guilty of. 😉

At first I used this word freely, it’s a great way to express an obvious feeling right? Well yes and no. People shiver for different reasons, it’s those reasons that suggest this blanket word can be stretched out or removed altogether.

Example 1.

Billy’s fingers gently brushed the back of her arm sending pleasant shivers across her body. (15)

Not a bad sentence really. A few unnecessary words. If I’m also worried about (word count) I would remove gently and pleasant, they are implied anyway. Three words doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up quickly.

Her skin tingled as Billy’s fingers brushed the back of her arm. (12)

Example 2.

Elouise shivered suddenly for no reason whatsoever. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” She muttered to herself. (18)

Meh, it could use a little trimming and rewording.

Elouise frowned and rubbed her arms. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” (13)

Example 3. (I still write like this.)

Tod had never felt so bone achingly cold in his life. He was shivering so hard his teeth chattered loudly. (20)

Now I know enough to rewrite it to this. FYI the word felt is a super filter word.

Tod wrapped his arms around his aching body, unable to stop his chattering teeth. (14)

Do I never use the word shiver? No, it’s a fun word that evokes a personal response. I do use it sparingly or try to anyway. Sometimes a plain ole shiver is just what the story needs, especially if there is no established reason for it.

My advice about overuse.
Overuse can happen with any word, shiver is just an example. Make a list of ‘important’ words you see too often in your writing and then see how often you actually use them. Then see if you can switch it up or swap it out, but don’t jeopardize the story or the flow if you can’t think of a way to change it.



Other related Posts.

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.


Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved




Tag! You’re it.

When someone reads my work and complements it, it feels amazing. When someone reads it and criticizes, I look at the critic and weigh the value of their opinion. When someone offers advice or points out errors, I thank them.

Recently someone pointed out that I use taglines too much. No I don’t… Oh wait I totally did. Huh.
Here is an example from a rough draft.

Bill ran into Grant who was waiting outside the room.

“How’d it go Bill?” Grant asked annoyed.

“Well. He wanted a firsthand report on the events.” Bill answered.

“That makes sense.” Grant said angrily.

“He said to move them today Grant, all of them. Are the rooms ready?” Bill asked ignoring Grant.

Painful right? It was how I wrote the rough draft. Just to get it out. It wasn’t super important for me to make sure everything was perfect, that’s what editing is for. I even grabbed the adverbs, angrily and annoyed and stuck them in.  Here it is now.

Grant stood outside the meeting room with his hands clasped behind his back. Bill was meeting with the boss Mr. Stork alone, without him once again. He cleared his throat as the door opened.

“How did it go?” 

Surprised by the ambush, Bill stopped in his tracks. “It went well. He wanted a firsthand report on the events.” 

“That makes sense, but without me?” He folded his arms across his chest.

“You weren’t there and didn’t see what happened. Anyway, Stork said to move all of them today.” Bill started walking down the hall, taking note of the hostility. “Are the rooms ready Grant?”

I knew better, yet I still included he said, she said, he asked, she answered a lot. Are they all gone? No, of course not, they have their place. Sometimes simple is better depending on the situation. Putting in action instead of telling emotion can make it flow and read better. Action tags are not the same as Taglines. For example. One should not laugh, giggle, snort, or sigh words. I do this a lot as well. 

“No way.” He laughed.

I still want him to laugh so instead I would say.

He laughed. “No way.”


“No way.” He covered his mouth and laughed.

I remember reading and being taught to use end of sentence tag lines and action tags. I got some fantastic advice a while back. “Show it don’t tell it. Make the reader see what you see.” People read he said or she asked like a period at the end of the sentence. It chops the reading flow off at the knees.

My advice about taglines and action tags.
Recognize them and get rid of them if they are unnecessary. Don’t Jeopardize your sentences with laziness. It’s a great opportunity to take drab conversation and dress it up. Search your work for words such as; said, asked, answered and smiled.  Don’t forget to look for those pesky adverbs that go so well with said.



If you liked this, check out some of my older posts, if you haven’t already.

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Spell check doesn’t catch them all.

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.


Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved