Friday, May 10, 2019

Writing Tips for Kids 9 - Remove Fluff Words



by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com



Last year I began a series of Writing Tips for Kids which I continued in 2019. Today’s article is the ninth in the series. Over coming weeks you’ll see more short articles, each of them addressing young writers and dealing with a topic helpful to them. I’ve created a new List for these articles and will add to it over time. The List is embedded below.

How and Why to Remove Fluff Words

What are “fluff” words? Is it words that mean people have gas? Not today it isn’t!

Do you remember in Writing Tips for Kids 6 - Remove Repetitions, we talked about removing repeated words and sentence types to make it easier on a reader? Fluff words slow our writing down the way repetition does. Such words are filler. Examples are: very, really, quite, a bit, sort of, got, just. Mostly we don’t need those words in a sentence. They clutter up our writing and make it slower and more boring to read.

Here’s an example: My brother is sort of cranky when he wakes up. I tease him about it quite a lot but Dad just says that’s not very nice.

Here’s one way to write it without the fluff words: My brother is cranky when he wakes up. I tease him about it but Dad says that’s not nice.

Fluff words have less impact than a strong verb, adjective or noun. They don’t create as clear a picture for the reader. Instead of "a really big pile of rocks", we could write "an avalanche of rocks" or "a mountain of rocks", depending on the situation. Would you choose avalanche of rocks or mountain of rocks if the rocks were looming above you? Which would you choose if the rocks were starting to fall on you?

Sometimes "that" can be removed. Example: "Trey thought that he would go". "Trey thought he would go." means the same, but is quicker to read. One word sounds so small, but in a whole story, removing one word here and another there can make a huge difference. If you have to write a set amount of words, taking words out can make your story tighter, and make it an easier read.

Sometimes "the" can be removed. Example: The candle flames flickered as an icy wind blew. The shadows danced on the wall, creating monstrous, menacing shapes. I shuddered as the clammy hands circled my neck.

Can you remove "the" to make stronger sentences?

Here's one way: Candle flames flickered as an icy wind blew. Shadows danced on the wall, creating monstrous, menacing shapes. I shuddered as clammy hands circled my neck.

When you're checking your work (editing or revising), look at each word or phrase you've written. If you can take it out, without changing the meaning, it's not necessary. Our goal is to make writing strong and clear. Very few writers can do that the first time. That's why they read it over several times and change it. Some even read it backwards to help themselves look at words more carefully. Don't worry though, there's no need to stand on your head!

You might also like to read Writing Tips for Kids - How to Start, Writing Tips for Kids 2 - Write What You Know, Writing Tips for Kids 3 - Developing Characters, Writing Tips for Kids 4 - Writing Funny Stories, Writing Tips for Kids 5 - Start with a Hook, Writing Tips for Kids 6 - Remove Repetitions, Writing Tips for Kids 7 - Use Strong Verbs and Writing Tips for Kids 8  - Use Specific Nouns.

Clipart Credit: Phillip Martin

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