Writing Tip Monday: Instantly Improve Your Writing by Removing Filter Words

No, that’s not a joke.

You can immediately improve your writing by removing filter words. So what are filter words?

Have you ever read a book and felt disconnected or jarred out of a scene? Have you ever read your own writing and felt like something was lacking or you don’t know how to be more descriptive and engaging? Before I learned about filter words, I didn’t know why I couldn’t connect with certain books or why it took me so long to read them when the story itself was good.

It was the writing flow that kicked me out of a character’s world and narrative.

Filter words are the difference between showing and telling. Our goal as fiction writers is to pull a reader in and have them feel like they are part of the story. They can see it in their heads, they can smell every smell and it’s like they’re one of the characters not just a voyeur to the action.

Filter words: (and variations of these words)

  • to see
  • to hear
  • to think
  • to touch
  • to wonder
  • to realize
  • to watch
  • to look
  • to seem
  • to feel (or feel like)
  • can
  • to decide
  • to sound (or sound like)

Filter words in action:

(with filter phrase) I see the rain falling on the roof.
(without filter phrase) Rain falls on the roof.

(with filter phrase) I feel cold.
(without filter phrase) I’m cold.

(with filter phrase) I hear the thundering music from the bar spilling onto the sidewalk.
(without filter phrase) Thundering music from the bar spills onto the sidewalk.

(with filter phrase)  I decide to go inside where it’s warmer.
(without filter phrase)  I go inside where it’s warmer.

(with filter phrase) She looks beautiful in her flowing white dress and veil.
(without filter phrase)  She’s beautiful in her flowing white dress and veil.

It’s a small change, with a big punch. One shows you, one tells you-drawing you into a deeper point of view.

I have certain words that I am apparently addicted to, and my first drafts are full of them. But now that I know what they are, they are easier to spot and even easier to fix!

That being said, absolutely it’s okay to use them sometimes. Just because filter words are weak, doesn’t mean they have no place in your writing. But if you cut the majority of them out, the others won’t stand out when you do use them. In a few scenes in my current  WIP I had to create that distance between my character and the action because that was how he processed that moment.

I hope you find this helpful and you can go back to your drafts and see and feel the difference in your manuscripts! I will be posting more writing tips every Monday.

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