Filler Words to Remove From Your Novel | iWriterly

All writers want our prose to read smoothly
and have readers fully engaged throughout the story. In order to do that, it’s important to cut
back on filler words, which make sentences read clunkier. Learn what words to use less frequently in
your novel–coming up! Heya, book nerds! I’m Meg LaTorre, and on this episode of
iWriterly, let’s talk about filler words. Filler words aren’t necessarily “bad”
words and they do have their place in the craft of writing. However, many writers use these words copiously
throughout their manuscripts when they aren’t strictly necessary. Before we get into today’s content, hit
the subscribe button and ring that bell if you haven’t already. Here on iWriterly, we create videos about
how to be a successful modern-day author and we fangirl about books. Now, sometimes extra filler words can be used
in places like dialogue to make it feel more authentic to today’s modern culture, but
the narration doesn’t require the same strategy. Whether you are pursuing traditional- or self-publication,
all writers need to be at least moderately aware of the word count of their manuscripts. Cutting back on filler words can often be
what writers need in order to lessen their overarching word count. Here are filler words you will want to consider
using less frequently in your manuscript. Just / That / Then: Usually, these words are
plunked in a sentence and don’t add value. Often, if these words are removed from the
sentence, the meaning remains the same. If that’s the case, remove them. For example: With Filler Word: Just when he thought that
he’d escaped, a hand seized him from behind. No Filler Word: When he thought he’d escaped,
a hand seized him from behind. Very / Really / Much: These filler words often
don’t add any value to whatever you are describing. For example: With Filler Word: He was very tall. No Filler Word: He was tall. Like: This word can be used in similes to
great effect, but it can also be used as a crutch word in sentences lacking a written
comparison. In addition, consider if your simile can be
swapped to a metaphor and have the same effect. Get / Got: These words can often be swapped
out with an active verb, which can create better visuals for the reader. For example: With Filler Word: He got the ball. No Filler Word: He grabbed the ball. Only / Even: These words are usually used
for additional emphasis in narration when they aren’t necessary. For example: With Filler Word: It was only then he realized
he’d been tricked. No Filler Word: It was then he realized he’d
been tricked. Absolutely / Completely / Definitely / Literally
/ Totally: In general, proceed with caution with words ending in “ly” (adverbs). Usually, they just block up the prose and
make the story read clunkier. Like most filler words, they usually aren’t
necessary. For example: With Filler Word: Grabbing my boss’ folder,
I hurried toward the elevator, thinking it would be absolutely fine. I would bring the files back before he even
knew anything was missing. No Filler Word: Grabbing my boss’ folder,
I hurried toward the elevator, thinking it would be fine. I would bring the files back before he even
knew anything was missing. Certainly / Probably: These two words lack
decisiveness. They can be used in dialogue to convey a character’s
uncertainty if the scene calls for it, but they often aren’t necessary in the narration. For example: With Filler Word: She thought she could probably
do it. No Filler Word: She thought she could do it. The phrasing “thought she could” conveys
her lack of confidence to do whatever the activity is. There is no need for the word “probably”
in this instance. Currently / Now: Sometimes, conveying the
immediacy of the scene, action, or moment is necessary. However, it’s often sufficient to simply
describe what a character is doing without indicating it’s happening at present. For example: With Filler Word: He had kissed her, and to
her surprise she had kissed him back. Now, she didn’t know what to think. Could he be the monster she had originally
thought? No Filler Word: He had kissed her, and to
her surprise she had kissed him back. She didn’t know what to think. Could he be the monster she had originally
thought? In my opinion, this example could go either
way (with or without the filler word). Here’s another example: With Filler Word: Currently, she stood at
the edge of the field, wondering if she should continue on or turn back. No Filler Word: She stood at the edge of the
field, wondering if she should continue on or turn back. Actually / Basically / Practically / Simply
/ Truly / Virtually: These words often hint at something being almost or nearly “there”
(to whatever the standards are or scenario indicates) or trying to indicate the true
nature of a thing. For example: With Filler Word: It was basically robbery. No Filler Word: It was robbery. Almost / Nearly: I love the word “nearly”
in an action scene, as if often helps to convey the stakes surrounding an action. But these words aren’t always necessary
to indicate immediacy. For example: With Filler Word: Crochet needles clicking
together, she had nearly completed the blanket. No Filler Word: Crochet needles clicking together,
the blanket had several squares left until it was done. Appeared / Seemed: These words can be used
to hint at what a character is seeing and interpreting in a scene. But most of the time, it’s best to simply
describe what they are seeing. For example: With Filler Word: Watching Michael pass the
envelope to the man across from him, it seemed he was paying the man for his silence. No Filler Word: Watching Michael pass the
envelope to the man across from him, she gaped. He was paying the man for his silence. Was / Were: In general, try to swap out was
and were for active verbs. For example: With Filler Word: Writing early in the morning
was tiring, but she pressed on anyway. No Filler Word: Writing early in the morning
weighted her eyes, but she pressed on anyway. Adverbs / Adjectives: As was mentioned above,
consider carefully if your adjectives or adverbs are necessary or if an active verb can convey
the same meaning (without the need for adverbs and adjectives). For example: With Filler Word: She ran quickly toward the
departing school bus. No Filler Word: She bolted toward the departing
school bus. Other filler words and phrases to tread carefully
around: Dialogue Tags: The last thing I’ll mention
in this blog that can clutter up your stories are dialogue tags. Rather than indicating who is speaking for
every single dialogue tag, consider utilizing character movements or expression—or if
dialogue tags are necessary at all. For example: With Dialogue Tags:
“It’s not my fault,” Sarah said, crossing her arms. “You’re the one who forgot to bring the
dog back inside, and now he’s gone,” Michael said, tears streaming down his cheeks. With Character Movement:
“It’s not my fault.” Sarah crossed her arms. Tears streamed down Michael’s cheeks. “You’re the one who forgot to bring the
dog back inside, and now he’s gone.” Like anything else, the use of certain words,
how you phrase sentences, and (ultimately) how you structure stories to convey a compelling
plot is subjective. It’s all about your style as a writer and
how you can convey plot and voice. But consider carefully if some of these words
can be removed from your writing in order to strengthen it. Thanks for tuning into this episode on iWriterly,
all about filler words. If you liked what you saw, give the video
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and want more. If you’re new here, welcome! Consider subscribing. I post writing- and bookish-related videos
every Wednesday. If you have questions about anything we covered
today, leave those in the comments below. Be sure to connect with me on my other social
media platforms, including Twitter and Instagram. I also have a monthly newsletter, Book Nerd
Buzz, which includes exclusive insiders and giveaways for subscribers. When you subscribe to the newsletter, you’ll
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as a querying checklist. All of the links are listed below. That’s it for today. As always, keep writing!

71 thoughts on “Filler Words to Remove From Your Novel | iWriterly

  1. What did you guys think of our list of filler words? Did you disagree with any of the words listed? Let us know if we missed any other words in the comments below!

  2. Awesome video Meg 🙂 This list of filler words is great, I feel I tend to use less of them the more I write. Of course, I still have my few favorites but you're right, the goal is to use them scarcely 🙂
    Such a great content!

  3. This is what i'm currently doing in my book. xD Im getting rid of these during this edit while reworking certain plot points. Many thanks.

  4. OMG, one of my problems is " word word word, AND THEN…" I can't count how many instances of "and then" that I removed from Song of the Dryad xD Thanks for the great content Meg!

  5. Great video, I always heard filler words here and there, but I did not know until now what exactly they are. Thank you so much. Have a blessed day, Meg!

  6. Craft talk — I love it!

    One issue I see a lot in addition to the one you explore here is bad expository writing in dialogue. It's tough to not slip into doing it for so many young writers because the visual image (TV, movies) was their first love and big influence with story structure and storytelling as a whole. I know it was for me. The TV was my babysitter in the 80s.

    Anyway, the discussion is filler words. Back to it…

    As always, thank you!

    Have a fun weekend.


  7. I just wanted to let you know that if any of you are writers, I have a not-for-profit site that is all about reading and writing. The Writer's Den is open for free submissions (short fiction and poetry). The goal is to give a space for emerging writers! There are also free poems and stories to read, along with some writing advice articles! Hope you check it out!

  8. Loved this! It was probably the best list of filler words I’ve seen. So helpful! 💗 Was and were are definitely tricky ones.

  9. 'Thought she could' and 'thought she probably could' just blew my mind! Thank you for your examples, it makes it so easy to translate to my own writing

  10. I'm binge watching your videos right now – this is fantastic advice. I'm genuinely surprised you don't have more subscribers!

  11. Just stumbled upon this channel and I’ve binged several videos already. Great advise and solid content that is practical and helpful. Well done. On a side note: I tend to overuse unnecessary directional words. He stands up vs he stands. He sits down vs he sits. She walks over to the bookshelf, vs she walks to the bookshelf. I have bookmarked a few of your videos to use when I finish my current novel project—before submitting to an agent. Thanks again for all the great advise and information.

  12. Crochet needles don't click together, there is just one. Knitting needles do. Just thought i should say something. Great video.

  13. 5.05….the crochet scene….how is this helping to reduce word count? Removing one word required several to explain. 5.35….now the meaning is changed by adding she. Prior to that there was no one else involved. Thanks for the video…I took lots of notes😀

  14. Thank you, Meg. I am a newbie and, as such, appreciate your videos. It's nice to hear an agent speak, giving insight into the business. Even more so the editing. Your smile is wonderful, making the videos that much more pleasurable. I left "that" in on purpose. Thanks again.

  15. I agree with most of your words on the list, but I disagree with nearly all the examples given. In each, there's a nuance of difference with the use of the particular filler word that suggests I would want the original version if it came up in the text the way I imagine it did.

  16. I disagree with about the first half, the rest is pretty good even if not all the given examples do it for me. Sidenote, a lot of the filler words are things the average American says about 3 times every sentence. In a way, I suppose that makes them acceptable in certain dialogue, but I'd much prefer it if they'd filter out all those dumb sounding filler words in their own dialogue!

  17. I am going through my manuscript and cutting down all the times I used the word "like." I've done eight chapters, and I've gotten rid of thirty or forty different times I've used the word! Insane. Can't wait to get through the whole thing and get rid of even more filler words. 😀

  18. Thank you for this video…very informative. My confidence has increased for my current endeavors.

  19. Yes, I can’t stand reading dialogue tags. If an author doesn’t use them sparingly, I skip every one.

  20. After watching this I went on my unfinished manuscript did a search and find for the word “just” it came up to 128 (my manuscript so far is 30,000 words) and I deleted a lot of the words and got “just” down to 12. These tips are so helpful. Thank you.

  21. The video would have been a bit more helpful if there had been examples of the "proper" use of the given filler words as well. Most of the words cited are used commonly even in the most vaunted classics. It's less a problem with the words and more a problem of improper usage. Some of the examples felt like they were specifically constructed to make the words appear clunkier than they can be.

  22. i agree with a lot of this except for perhaps the use of Even and somehow, as i feel these could be used well. but i feel you didn't mention one thing that also makes pros feel clunky or a sentence seem wordy. a lack of contractions. USE CONTRACTIONS. more often than not they improve the flow and ease of reading for a reader. not having them makes the work feel unfinished or that the writer didn't want to do the work. now that's not to say contractions are 100% always necessary, but 9 times out of 10 they can be used

  23. I personally use a lot of those fillers you described and maybe you are right.

    Though I feel like it connects reader more but as you said if we need to shorten it up then we must cut them down.

    I truly agree to what you said on dialogue tags,

  24. Removing words can be a great and lovely challange. Years ago I'd written a short story of roughly 11 hundred words. A couple of years later I came across a writing contest for which it was very suitable, but it could contain only 8 hundred words. At first I thought it'd be impossible to remove 3 hundred words but I kept on going and it was not only possible but the story came out much stronger.

  25. I submit one exception when to use the word basically: Basically the sodium hydroxide neutralized the acid.

  26. I can't be sure but we use filler words whenever we speak. so is it necessary to remove them when it's within the dialogue spoken by the characters?

  27. i'm hanging on your ever word. then out of nowhere….some Zach dude is crying about the dog. who's Zach? come on, tell me. I've got a feeling this Michael character left the dog out on purpose and is framing poor Sarah. that's why he stopped crying. isn't it?
    sarcasm font off/
    hehe. just teasing. thanks for the tips! i'm gonna search my blatherings and delete some fools.

  28. Glad I caught your video, Meg. This tutorial has been oodles helpful for me in knowing where and when to use specific words and phrases, plus where and when not to.
    I will try to apply this lesson the best I can when I am writing a story.
    Thank you, Meg.

  29. I recommend "Politics and the English Language" by George Orwell as another source of knowing what words to leave out etc.

  30. Great video! You mentioned avoiding passive voice. Could it also be a tool to convey a character’s passivity or victimization, contrasted by the antagonist’s active or passive voice to convey level of intent to victimize?

  31. Helpful – to the point, efficient, effective w/o long winded explanations or self promotion, bragging about past accomplishments

  32. I like dialogue tags I don't need them every line, but there are a number of books that go more than 4 lines without tags and then say something confusing to the point where I'm not sure which character is talking anymore.

  33. whenever someone replaces was, it goes from invisible to pretentious faster than you can say, "that was some snobby writing." this seems like that time when everyone got all up in arms about "said" some words are going to be used more than others, they just are.

  34. I have used the raising and furrowing of brows so often, that I've called myself on it in the prose indirectly.
    But eyebrows are just so expressive… As are eyes, the nostrils, and the corners of one's lips. But eyebrows? The entire meaning they're conveying can change just by quirking it in one direction slightly.

    Ultimately (another adverb!), I believe there isn't any such thing as a useless word, and it seems you kind of agree with that? I think? While there's certainly words that can provide unnecessary fluff to a manuscript, if you know how to work it, you can get away with using whatever word you want in whatever way you want. If it doesn't break the willing suspension of disbelief, it'll be fine, yes?

  35. I feel like you can use whatever word you want as long as you can make it flow with the rest of your writing, if that makes sense.

  36. …AT 4:15, "…only one has less words." I think you should say, "fewer words" or less wordy". I would go with "fewer words" because you are talking about counting something, not measuring it. Funny that if you had looked at the other side of the comparison, "more" works in either sense.

  37. I use only as many as I need to convey an emotion or a train of thought.
    This woman has a very annoying voice. Maybe she should cut back on speaking.

  38. This video is actually really useful. I did a word search through my outline, and needless to say I was a little embarrassed. I'm not as worried about these words showing up in my outlines, but I'll keep an eye out for them in the fleshed-out drafts. Great Tattoo, btw!

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