Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fillers—Blech!


Maybe it’s me, but I cringe and gag a little when I hear that “fillers” and “by-products” have been added to food. Don't get me going on the "pink slime" that's been in the news. In case you

haven’t read or heard about this loveliness, pink slime is the result of beef trimmings mixed with ammonium hydroxide. It’s said to be safe, but mixed into foods such as hamburgers and served at some fast food restaurants and schools. Ick. Blech. Nasty.

Anyway, there are fillers in writing, too. And readers may have a similar reaction of ick, blech, nasty. Although, maybe without as much gagging. What are fillers in writing? Wordiness that doesn’t contribute to meaning. Last week I wrote about beautiful writing that can be distracting. This filler stuff isn’t pretty. It’s excess language that often signals a writer struggling to find what he or she is trying to say. Believe me, I know about this. I’ve written pages trying to corner an elusive point.


Here are some examples of fillers:


Qualifiers such as very, most, hopefully, practically, and really (to name a few of my favorites) are signs of wordy writing. Once they are deleted, sentences are more direct. Very few people will usually argue that kittens are, generally, really adorable is not as strong as Few people will argue that kittens are adorable.


Using two words that convey the same meaning is another example of wordiness. In the sentence Gwen worked hard to achieve her hopes and dreams, hopes isn’t necessary.


Stock phrases are also fillers that can sneak into writing. The fact that Lee had a crush on Jules bothered everyone is clunky. Lee had a crush on Jules, which bothered everyone is better.


What are your thoughts on fillers in what you are reading and writing? And, okay, feel free to share your thoughts on pink slime, as well. But I warn you—I may gag.


Photo by dantada at www.morgefile.com

54 comments:

  1. Good ones! Our speech includes tons of fillers, so we have to work really hard to recognize them.

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    1. That's a great point, Donna. Our writing can be influenced by the way we speak.

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  2. There's also the attitude of "I've done my research, and now I get to unload it on you." Research leads us onto rabbit trails like Victorian fern collections or unusual facial hair among scientists, but if it doesn't help the story, then don't dump it in.

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    1. Another great point, Mark. When I read about unusual facial hair, for example, I hope that this will mean something to the story. Otherwise, what's the point?

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  3. Pink slime?!?! What is this pink slime?!!? Oh no, no, no!!

    Oh my first drafts and earlier writings are plagued by these fillers!! So so so embarassing!!! LOL!

    Take care
    x

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    1. Believe me, Kitty, if you haven't heard or read about pink slime, you don't want to know. And yup, my early drafts have lots of fillers, too. I think that's why I had this topic in my bloggy mind. ; )

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  4. I skip the words and phrases and just load up on filler paragraphs and chapters. Go big or go home!

    Fortunately, between my own good sense and the pointed criticism of betas, I managed to trim or cut them altogether.

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    1. JeffO, you crack me up! Why not go big or go home? : ) I'm glad to hear that good sense prevails, though.

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  5. Those are excellent examples. Snip, snip, snip... onto the cutting room floor they fall.

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  6. Thanks for the great post, Cynthia. I don't know where I'd be without my critique partner and beta readers!

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    1. I so agree, Victoria. Sometimes it's hard to see the fillers when we've been staring at the manuscript for too long.

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  7. You pointed out some great fillers here! EWW..we don't want that pink slime in our writing.

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    1. Thanks, Loree! And you're so right about not wanting that pink slime in our writing. Ack!

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  8. I'm not so bad these days, but it does take a keen eye to see the extra words that creep into our writing.

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  9. Awesome post! It's so true. And I used to be so reluctant to part with those extra words (weeds) but once I did, I could see how much better the sentences were. A professor of mine once said to me, "Sometimes less is more, less is more". Less words but greater impact. Now I try to trim everything!

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    1. That less is more can be a hard lesson, I think, but a valuable one. Thanks, Lisa.

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  10. You've validated the necessity of a good edit today!

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    1. Ha! Well, that's good, right? Thanks, Joanne.

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  11. Oh, yicky yuck--I have seen that pink slime. It's just disgusting they serve that stuff to humans (especially after soaking it in ammonia). Love that yummy photo though!

    Excellent examples of fillers!! I'm guilty of using Really and Most a LOT. Thanks for the reminders...

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    1. Really is one of my favorites, too, Carol--both in writing and speaking. ; )

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  12. Yuck!!! Makes me want to puke! Ponk slime gah!
    I really am quite sufficiently good at embroidering my first draft with wordiness needless fillers! Cut cut cut

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    1. I do the same thing, Michelle. Write them in and then cut them out.

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  13. I'm sorry, but I can't believe pink slime even made it through the approval process. That's just wrong. Oh, yeah. I agree about writing fillers, too.

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    1. The pink stuff is more disturbing on some levels, isn't it, Carol?

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  14. ewwwwwwwwww
    I like precise writing.

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  15. This is one thing I'm getting better at. I analyze each sentence to make sure there are no unnecessary words. It's amazing how many can slip in if you don't pay attention to them.

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    1. I find that I have to read just for fillers sometimes. If I get distracted by characters and such, the fillers can slip by me.

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  16. First - EWWWWW! I'm so grossed out too by that. Second - YES! It's tough to eliminate them all, but we should try our best! That's one of the things revision is for. :D

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    1. Absolutely a revision thing, Lisa. And I agree that it's hard to delete all the fillers. They are sneaky.

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  17. I lean on fillers when writing a first draft, then trim them out later. As for the pink slime, ewww!

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    1. I use all kinds of fillers in my first drafts, too. And man, are my first drafts ugly. But not as bad as that pink slime. Ack.

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  18. Just as long as Lee stays away from water tower inscriptions.

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  19. I am guilty of using fillers in my writing. I am sure a few fillers still manage to creep in, but my wonderful CP's catch them fast.

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    1. Hurray for CPs! Where would we be without them? ; )

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  20. Sometimes I have to do an edit pass just for extraneous words, just to make sure I don't miss any! They're sneaky little things.

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    1. Yes they are, Adrienne. I do the same thing. : )

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  21. I know all about fillers. I've written many and then went back and chopped them out. I notice them when I read books and they drive me crazy. As far as pink slime goes - yuck. I can't believe I've eaten that.

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    1. Fillers are not fun to stumble over when reading, Janet. They're so jarring.

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  22. I have a LONG list of my crutch/filler words, and as a matter of fact, I'm in the process of deleting those! It's amazing how many "just" and "little" are in my manuscript. Oy!

    And the pink slime? Gag!

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    1. They are kind of fun to delete, though, aren't they, Julie? I get a certain satisfaction out of tightening writing. Happy deleting!

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  23. Oh, my mind went right to "small snippets that magazines buy from freelancers that are said to be a great way to break in." Like household or parenting tips or such.

    Pink slime? +shudder+

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  24. I recognize my filler words and phrases while I'm editing, but I'm aware I miss many. I'm getting better at the chopping block, though.

    Ewww at the thought of fillers in foods.

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    1. They are so easy to miss, Medeia. This can be frustrating.

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  25. Just is my go to filler word. And my characters tend to do a lot of nodding!

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    1. Oh yes, Shannon. My characters nod like bobble-headed dolls sometimes. Never pretty. ; )

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  26. I am definitely guilty of this from time to time. I think it's because we hear certain phrases a certain way, and they become cemented in our thoughts. LOL, becca is great for catching my wordy filler.

    And that pink stuff? EWWWW.

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    1. Hurray for the amazing Becca and all of our helpful readers. It's hard to catch these fillers in our own writing some times.

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  27. My early drafts are crowded with fillers - luckily they're easy to remove in editing.

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    1. For me, they are easy to put and there's great satisfaction in taking them out. Slash and burn, I say. ; )

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