As writers, we know every word has to earn its place on the page. That means tightening each sentence until it’s lean, clear and free of fluff. So those pesky little filler words have got to go.
Filler words are words that creep into our writing during the drafting stage, such as that, just, even, seem, very or really. We use these words all the time when we talk, so of course they slip into our writing. The problem is that they can become a habit, popping up three or four times a page.
For the reader, that little filler word quickly becomes the written equivalent of someone who uses like repeatedly in conversation: “Like, it was raining, and the train was late, like, again…” In other words, super annoying. Take a look:
Even though the moon was shining and the sky was clear, Kaitlin couldn’t help but feel unnerved as she walked to her car. She quickened her pace and even pulled her keys from her bag and clutched them in her hand. She tried to calm her nerves. If she screamed, would anyone even hear her?
The first even was innocent enough, but by the end of the paragraph, the evens become rather noticeable. And two out of three here are unnecessary; they can be eliminated with no change at all to the story.
Even though the moon was shining and the sky was clear, Kaitlin couldn’t help but feel unnerved as she walked to her car. She quickened her pace, pulling her keys from her bag and clutching them in her hand. She tried to calm her nerves. If she screamed, would anyone hear her?
Much better. Fortunately, the AutoCrit Editor will help you identify your fillers, so you can cut, cut, cut.
The exception to the rule
Not all filler words need to go. If you have one that serves a purpose—like in the first sentence of our example above—then by all means, keep it. The goal is to eliminate the unnecessary words and cut or change anything that might become distracting to the reader.
The bottom line
Filler words are almost always fluff. Cut unnecessary words to keep your sentences tight and your readers happy.