by James Corgin (used with permission)
Post-modern society has witnessed a tendency to simplify everything it can. We are lost in a sea of unnecessary information. Research has found that we use only 37% of the information taught at school. Of course, there’s also the continuous flow of advertisement and social media updates that inundate us.
That is why information overload is the problem of the 21st century. Some years from now, scientists will probably find a way to decrease its effect, but for now we have only one option – to communicate more concisely. The definition of concise writing is simple: use as few words as possible to convey your message. Below you will find some advice on how to slim down your word count.
Fillers You Should Drop for Concise Writing
If you intend to make your writing concise, avoid these words. We have grouped them into four categories for your convenience. In most cases, these English fillers are superfluous. Sometimes, however, fillers create a necessary rhythm or make the text sound “natural,” so you’ll need to review them on a case-by-case basis.
Redundant words repeat the meaning of other words in the sentence. If it is possible to say the same thing in fewer words, always do so.
- Absolutely + necessary or essential:
Example: Love was absolutely essential to her happiness.
Revision: Love was essential for her happiness.
Example: The virus will be entirely eliminated.
Revision: The virus will be eliminated.
Example: He was completely sure the girl would say “yes.”
Revision: He was sure the girl would say “yes.”
Example: He could possibly become the next president.
Revision: He could become the next president.
- Brief + moment:
Example: For a brief moment, he remained speechless.
Revision: For a moment, he remained speechless.
- Ask + the question:
Example: I asked her a question about our plans.
Revision: I asked her about our plans.
- Actual + facts:
Example: The policeman submitted the actual facts about the case.
Revision: The policeman submitted the facts about the case.
Example: Accordingly, ask before making changes next time.
Revision: Ask before making changes next time.
- ATM machine: (The abbreviation “ATM” stands for “automated teller machine.”)
Example: The ATM machine is around the corner.
Revision: The ATM is around the corner.
- Enter in:
Example: He entered in his childhood room.
Revision: He entered his childhood room.
- So or very:
Example: I was so glad to see him.
Revision: I was glad to see him.
- Still remains:
Example: The author still remains the most prominent figure of the 19th century.
Revision: The author remains the most prominent figure of the 19th century.
Nominalization is when you use a noun instead of a verb or adjective. This practice usually slows the reader down. Since action words – like verbs – are more dynamic, you should try to avoid unnecessary nominalizations. Here are some examples:
Example: Her definition of self-care was getting enough sleep and eating well.
Revision: She defined self-care as getting enough sleep and eating well.
Example: The accuracy of our study was insufficient.
Revision: Our study was inaccurate.
Example: Provide a description of the design you prefer.
Revision: Please describe the design you prefer.
- Had a discussion concerning:
Example: They had a discussion concerning the business perspectives.
Revision: They discussed the business perspectives.
- Had a conversation about:
Example: They had a conversation about their relationships.
Revision: They discussed their relationships.
- Have a need for:
Example: I have a need for a day off.
Revision: I need a day off.
- Increase in strength:
Example: Their love increased in strength.
Revision: Their love grew stronger.
- Is aware of:
Example: He was aware of her hatred.
Revision: He realized she hated him.
- Is in love with:
Example: They are in love with each other.
Revision: They love each other.
- Lack the ability to:
Example: I lack the ability to wake up early in the morning.
Revision: I cannot wake up early in the morning.
- Make a decision to:
Example: I couldn’t make a decision to end our communication.
Revision: I couldn’t decide to end our communication.
Example: His reaction offended me.
Revision: The way he reacted offended me.
Vague language is common in colloquial speech, but in writing, it looks unprofessional. Vague words lack solid definitions. Avoid the words below or replace them, following the instructions.
Example: About 100 visitors left reviews.
Revision: Approximately 100 visitors left reviews.
Example: It was almost time to leave.
Revision: They left a few minutes later.
Example: You need to get stronger.
Revision: You need to become stronger.
- Get out of:
Example: The building is on fire; get out of it.
Revision: You need to exit the building because it’s on fire.
Example: Any individual shall have a place of residence.
Revision: Any person shall have a place of residence.
Example: My initial thought was to leave.
Revision: At first, I thought to leave.
- You’re going to have to:
Example: You’re going to have to finish this at home.
Revision: You must finish this at home.
- Make available:
Example: Our service makes available multiple useful features.
Revision: Our service presents multiple useful features.
Example: We left the area.
Revision: We left the country.
Example: Planning is my least favorite aspect of traveling.
Revision: I like to travel, but I do not like to plan.
Example: The situation grew dangerous.
Revision: The uprising grew dangerous.
- Small, big, good, or bad:
Example: He was a good person.
Revision: He was a kind and caring person.
Empty phrases mean nothing in the literal sense. By the way, “in the literal sense” is also a meaningless phrase. These words distract the reader from your message and can sound colloquial. In many cases, you can do without them or replace them with a more meaningful construction.
- All things being equal:
Example: All things being equal, we will earn twice as much next year.
Revision: If all goes well, we will earn twice as much next year.
- Due to the fact that:
Example: Due to the fact that he is a doctor, he minds his health.
Revision: Since he is a doctor, he minds his health.
- For all intents and purposes:
Example: For all intents and purposes, the protagonist will die in the end.
Revision: In the end, the protagonist will die.
- For the most part:
Example: For the most part, I like Chinese food.
Revision: I like Chinese food.
- For the purpose of:
Example: I go in for sport for the purpose of keeping in shape.
Revision: I go in for sport to keep in shape.
- Go ahead:
Example: Go ahead and kill that bug.
Revision: Kill that bug.
- Harder than it has to be:
Example: The woman made their relationship harder than it had to be.
Revision: The woman made their relationship harder than necessary.
- Here’s the thing:
Example: I’ll tell you the story. Here’s the thing.
Revision: I’ll tell you the story. Once upon a time…
- I feel/believe that:
Example: I believe that I am capable of doing it.
Revision: I am capable of doing it.
- I might add:
Example: He is handsome, I might add.
Revision: He is handsome.
- Integrate with each other:
Example: The devices must integrate with each other to function correctly.
Revision: The devices must integrate to function correctly.
- In terms of:
Example: His new position was perfect in terms of salary.
Revision: The salary was perfect in his new position.
Thanks for James Corgin for this article that originated at https://ivypanda.com/blog/filler-words/