Forget the Filler to Improve Your Writing

Padding in your sofa is a good thing. It is a necessary thing because without it you do not have much of a sofa! The same does not go for writing. Good writers avoid using qualifiers in their writing. These words are known as “padding” or “filler words” and generally add little to your writing. According to the Collins Dictionary, “Padding is unnecessary words or information used to make a piece of writing or a speech longer.”

Adding modifiers, qualifiers, and unnecessary adverbs and adjectives tends to weaken your writing. There may be times when you do need them, but if you choose strong, descriptive nouns and verbs, you will need to use them less often.

Inexperienced writers often use padding words to make their articles, reports, or books longer. These words are mostly redundant and don’t add much, if anything, to the meaning of the piece. They tend to turn readers off. Soon enough, boredom will set in and they will stop reading your writing. Mostly, using filler is done to meet word count requirements or goals and, in the case of book writing, because the plot isn’t as strong as it could be. Especially in creative writing, filler words include the overuse of adverbs and adjectives. Use of these words makes you “tell” rather than “show.” If you write well, using precise nouns and descriptive verbs, you will show. Weak verbs make you tell.

You can cut the filler by:

Eliminating words like really,” “only” and “just.” This will make your sentences sound better and more assertive.

Example: Pat just didn’t know what to do.

Better: Pat didn’t know what to do.

Limiting the use of modifiers like “maybe,” “perhaps,” “simply” and “somehow.” Use clear, assertive statements to create more impact.

Example: Jane simply didn’t know where her smartphone was.

Better: Jane didn’t know where her smartphone was.

Cutting out the redundancy:

Instead of “A period of five days,” use “Five days.”

Rather than “In spite of the fact that,” use “Although.”

Instead of “In the event that,” use “If.”

Rather than “Most certainly,” use “Certainly.”

Instead of “The biography of his life,” use “His biography.”

Rather than “Twelve midnight,” use “Midnight.”

Cutting out “that”:

Often, the word “that” can be deleted and the sentence will still have the same meaning.

Example: Willy swore that it would never happen again.

Better: Willy swore it would never happen again.

Cutting words like “absolutely,” “actually” and “basically”:

If something is absolute, actual or basic, we don’t have to add the words “absolutely,” “actually” or “basic.”

Example: Jack was absolutely sure the boy had stolen the money.

Better: Jack was sure (or, better yet, certain) the boy had stolen the money.

Being concise and removing as many prepositions after verbs as possible:

Use “Bought” as opposed to “Bought up.

Using “Cuts” is better than “Cutbacks.

Use “Meet” as opposed to “Meet up with.”

Using “Sold” is better than “Sold off.

Use “This time” as opposed to “This time around.

Cutting the words “Almost,” “Seems” and “Slightly”:

Something that is “slightly” or “almost” is weak and boring. When something or someone “seems” like (fill in the blank), you’re telling your readers there is a chance they aren’t (what’s in the blank).

Instead of: Above the clouds, the sun was almost blinding.

Just use: Above the clouds, the sun was blinding.

Cutting words like “a little,” “kind of” and “sort of”:

When reading a description, readers don’t want “sort of” or “kind of,” they want to be sure. They don’t want just “a little” — they want it all!

Example: The lie you told about me sort of hurt.

Better: The lie you told about me hurt!

“Very” gets an entry all its own:

“Very” plus “verb” can almost always be exchanged for a more descriptive verb. Or try leaving it out and see is the meaning changes. If not, keep it out!

Example: The signs were very good.

Better: The signs were excellent.