10 Filler Words to Cut from Your Writing

Write Right Talks about Writing RightEveryone has filler words. One of mine is “just.” I’m conscious of it because it was brought to my attention during a poetry workshop several years ago. Before that, I didn’t even notice it. It was a “filler” in much the same way that everyone has their own version of a verbal pause. No one notices either the written or verbal pauses unless they’re noticed or corrected by another.

Not everyone has someone to proof their writing or correct their speech, so it’s left to them to become more careful readers and observers of their work. In the case of speech, recording oneself can do wonders. Writing requires careful proofreading and a willingness to cut the fillers.

Filler words can be almost any word, but ten of the more common ones include the following:

  1. Just. I thought I should start this list with my own pitfall. “Just” isn’t a required word most of the time; it’s more often added to effect a version of “quite.”
  2. So. “So” is often used to describe the quality of something, i.e., “he was so late,” but the word is incomplete without an explanation. If the explanation isn’t required or shouldn’t be given, the word “so” should not be used. The case is the same for the word “such.”
  3. Very. Like “so,” “very” is used to describe the quality of something: “he was very late.” The word doesn’t really say much of anything and should be cut.
  4. Really. “Really” functions like “very” and “so” and is another filler to guard against.
  5. That. “That” often is a word used to connect phrases together but is rarely necessary. My advice with this particular word is to read the sentence aloud, once with the word and once without it. If the sentence makes sense without the word, cut it.
  6. And then. These two words are used to show progression, but they’re not needed. The story should be able to unfold on its own. If it can’t, revisiting the plot is required, not the addition of “and then.” This advice also applies to the words “and so.”
  7. But. “But” is a conjunction that joins phrases within a single sentence together. The word can be used to start a sentence – a use usually reserved for informal writing – but it isn’t needed. The advice also applies to other conjunctions such as “and” and “yet” as well as words like “however.”
  8. Of. “Of” is a word not always required as in the case of “off of” and “outside of.”
  9. Some. “Some” is often used as an adverb meaning “somewhat” or as an adjective meaning “remarkable,” but it’s more correct to use the actual words than the colloquial “some.”
  10. Like. “Like” may be more often heard when speaking, but it occasionally encroaches upon the written word.

What other filler words can you think of?

Comments

  1. Thanks Erin. I personally use a lot of filler words when I write, but am learning to take them out when I edit. I posted a link to this page as a resource for one of my own blog posts on easy, obvious edits – I hope you don’t mind. The info you have here is quite concise. 🙂

    http://thewritersaurus.com/2015/01/16/6-easy-edits-strengthen-final-draft/

  2. @Haley Well, that’s frustrating. Livefyre didn’t send me a notification about your comment. Le sigh.

    Oh, yes, don’t worry about fillers when you write. Look for them when you edit.

    Thank you for the link!

  3. How can you give writing advice on avoiding filler words while you use them?

    “The word doesn’t really say much of anything” – Didn’t you advise not to use really?
    “connect phrases together ” – connect together? Isn’t connect sufficient?
    “joins phrases within a single sentence together”  – joins together? isn’t joins sufficient?

    Take your own advice.

  4. @R Thank you for the feedback. I will watch my writing more carefully going forward.

  5. While searching my latest blog post for the word ‘so,’ I realized one of my biggest filler words is ‘also.’ 

    It’s easy to forget that writing is a skill we all need to practice and try to continually improve.

    Thanks for the list!

  6. JessicaWicks You bet! And, yes, writing takes practice—no matter how long we’ve been at it. Besides, there’s always something new to learn or try.

  7. The most annoying fillers, for me, are “sort of” and “kind of,” now a days.

Trackbacks

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  2. […] don’t need to follow the principle. The word, though, is one to be observed because it often is a filler word. Cutting it will make for more powerful and persuasive […]

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  5. […] help much either. Personally, for me, I like to use the word “that” a lot. Other examples of filler words are just, so, very, really, but, of, some, and like. Noticing filler words is hard. In my writing, […]

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