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 youhaven’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