BONUS CONTENT: Combating the plague of overused “filler” words

Big thanks to Susan Pearson who spotted a couple of issues with “A Mother’s Love.”

One of the issues Susan spotted was the word “even” showed up in the text far too often. This is a common writing problem and although each sentence was technically correct, most of the time the overused “filler word” isn’t needed at all and can be removed to streamline the text.

For example, of the 10 uses of “even” Susan pointed out, I deleted 8 of them without the meaning of the sentence changing one tiny bit.

So why are these overused filler words a problem?

Well, if the reader’s brain “snags” on a word and starts noticing the word throughout the text (as Susan did with “even”), your reader is no longer enjoying the story nearly as much.

(This problem can be worse when the word isn’t common. One author had everyone in his novel giving “sardonic grins” and I still remember reading the first chapter of a novel where everyone was nodding so much I assumed the story was set in a land populated by bobblehead dolls.)

“That” is another overused filler word I catch often in my own work and the works of others. In fact, I proofread something last night for a close friend who is a much better writer than I am, but the “that” monster got him good. There was an unnecessary “that” on almost every page. It happens to the best of us, is what I’m trying to say.

Here are some examples if you’re not sure what I mean:

I knew [that] violence wasn’t the answer.

As for the drinking, I admitted [that] I had let it get out of control

I could see [that] he had come to hate me.

Do you know [that] Mom doesn’t go to church anymore because of you?

Do you know [that] Dad was going to retire last year?

It was during those night walks [that] I truly realized I had become an outsider.

I was surprised [to realize that] he looked younger than me.

There were more, but I think you get the idea. All of those sentences work, yet the “that” isn’t really needed — and once a reader sees  “that” too many times, their brain snags on it and pulls them back from the story.

I have a list of “filler” words I try to avoid when I’m writing, but I still slip up all the time, especially when the writing isn’t coming easily, which is most of the time.

So thanks again to Susan Pearson for the great catch!