Filler Words to Remove From Your Novel



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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28 thoughts on “Filler Words to Remove From Your Novel

  1. 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?

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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,

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

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

  9. Thank you for this video…very informative. My confidence has increased for my current endeavors. www.theanukchronicles.com

  10. 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. 😀

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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😀

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

  16. 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.

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