Have you ever been self editing and wondered what you can do to make your prose stronger? Or, have you ever received a draft back from an editor–a draft you’ve already gone over multiple times yourself–and noticed lots of deletions?
You’re not alone. We all use crutch words when we speak, and those words ten to transfer to our writing.
What are crutch words?
In speech, they’re filler words that give us more time to think about our response. In writing, they’re words and phrases we’ve picked up or used for a particular reason, but we end up overusing them.
A good example is the word “definitely.” This is one of my crutch words. I’m sure I started using it in emails or other writing to sound positive. Something like, “I can definitely edit that manuscript for you” became the norm. Luckily, I caught onto my email crutch word quickly and now check my emails for it before hitting send.
Identifying Crutch & Filler Words
So, you know what crutch and filler words are, but how do you identify them in your own writing?
Grab an older piece of writing–an old blog post, early chapters of your manuscript, or something else you haven’t touched in a while.
Next, start scanning the text. Every time you see the same word or phrase, highlight or underline it.
Do the same thing but on a more recent piece of writing. If you find similar words or phrases being overused, you’ve found your crutch word!
Words to Eliminate from Your Prose
Crutch words will be different for everyone, but I have compiled a list of words and phrases I see being overused by multiple authors and bloggers, myself included!
But, I’d like to make a few notes before you dive in.
Note #1: Not all of these words are bad, and not every instance needs to be eliminated from your prose. Shocked? Think about it! If your character is speaking, they’ll probably use words like “a bit” or “just.” Dialogue doesn’t need to be perfectly clean because when we speak, we are all over the place. But for your narration, it’s good to keep your diction strong.
Note #2: When you search for these words in your manuscript, note how many times you’ve used the phrase. Did you use “as though” one time? If so, what was the context? Examine each usage carefully, and make a decision about whether it will affect the tone and style of your writing. Use your best judgment.
Note #3: Writing is not an exact science, and neither is editing. Rules are not hard and fast, and there is a lot of gray area. If you love one of the words on this list, don’t feel like you absolutely must remove all traces of it from your work. These words only become a problem when you’re relying on them all the time. Except for “shrugged his/her/their shoulders,” because that’s just redundant!
And now, without further ado, here is an extensive list of words to remove from your prose. Happy writing!
- Seem/Seems/Seemed to
- Appear/Appeared to
- As though
- Beginning to
- Shrugged his/her/their shoulders
- A bit
- Felt like