Today, we’re going to talk about one of those little things you probably don’t even realise you overuse: filler words.
Filler words are sort of like the ‘uhm’ in your speech: perfectly fine in casual conversation, but not great in formal speeches. Essentially, they are unnecessary words added to writing that you may want to consider removing. In this category, I also place repetitive words.
This is a much easier topic, so we’ll cover it off first. Repetitive words are those you use a lot in your own writing, to the point of overusing them. You’ll likely not notice these (as I didn’t) until someone points them out to you, which is another great reason to have people read your work.
They could be a colour – everything in my older work was ‘black’ – which you could change or remove the colour-descriptor of if it’s unnecessary. Alternately, describing areas, clothing things as ‘dark’, etc. The best way to do this is to hit ctrl+f and search the word. If you get a lot of hits, go to each one and see if it needs changing. This can also appear as phrases or certain use of dialogue (again, you’ll probably need a friend to point these out to you). Is every dramatic noise ‘catching the attention’ of someone? Are all your characters ‘looking happily’ at things? Your reader will notice, and it may put them off.
Words and phrases, such as: “all but” “almost” “somewhat” “just” “some (sort of)” are all great examples. Hell, they’re all great examples of my own problematic words. They’re not often needed and sometimes don’t even make sense.
For example, ‘she was all but right’. With the exception of specific circumstances, she is probably going to be either right or wrong.
We use filler words to soften our writing, the same way we use ‘uhm’ in speech. However, in storytelling (with the exception of dialogue, if used to show a character’s personality through speech patterns) they’re not needed.
Naturally, there are places where these words will be needed, eg: ‘the bus almost hit him’, but compare these two sentences:
“He realised it was some sort of monster, as it loomed over him.”
“He realised it was a monster, as it loomed over him.”
Unless you’re trying to really highlight that something is not quite what you’re describing, then I would do a search for these sorts of words (again, ctrl+f) and see if you can’t get rid of some. Otherwise, you may run the risk of sounding unsure in your descriptions.
Other common filler words are: just, so, really, very, nearly, like (when used as in speech). But there are plenty others which you can find by googling ‘filler words’ if you can’t pick them out on your own. Just be aware that not everyone’s opinion will suit your work, and some of these might be perfectly fine in your writing. In the end, it’s what works for you.
I hope this helps.
tl;dr – Ctrl+f is your best friend.