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Crutch Words & Filter Words


 

Crutch Words


Crutch words are words writers overuse in their work. They're called crutch words because writers lean on them, sometimes too heavily, in their manuscript. It is not unusual to find lots of crutch words in your first drafts since your focus is to get the story down on the pages.


However, crutch words limit a writer’s ability to create strong sentences. Common crutch words include the following: really, very, realize, just, so, seem, definitely, well, like, suddenly, honestly, etc. Writers may also notice other words they’re overusing in their manuscript.


For example:


Seconds later the room starts to waver, just a bit. My dad’s cell phone goes off just as Daniel walks into the room.


Both crutch words can be cut and streamlined to the following. (By the way, the two words, "just," so close together are called echoes - echoes will be discussed in another post)


Seconds later the room starts to waver a bit. My dad’s cell phone goes off as Daniel walks into the room.


Both sentences flow more smoothly without the crutch words included.


A good tip is to keep a list of crutch words handy and then use the list to remove any crutch words during one round of editing. Be sure to also add the crutch words you know you overuse. You can remove most instances of each crutch word, keeping only those that are absolutely necessary. Use the Search and Replace feature to find overused words and remove them or replace them with stronger words. Removing most crutch words will strengthen your writing.



Filter Words


Filter words are words that prevent readers from experiencing the story first-hand. They often “tell” instead of “show” what’s happening in the story. Most filter words can be cut altogether or replaced with stronger words or phrases that are more immediate and allow readers to feel like they’re experiencing what the character experiences. Common filter words include see, feel, hear, know, notice, think, look, smell, wonder, seem, watch, realize, etc.


For example:


Kara could see her mother smile disapprovingly.


The filter word can be cut, streamlining the sentence to:


Her mother smiled disapprovingly.


Another Example:


Jason turns to me with fingers running through his hair. “Yeah, if you could get more logs about six feet long, that'll help. I think I’ll need six or so.”


The filter word can be cut. The words "I think" are unnecessary.


Jason turns to me with fingers running through his hair. “Yeah, if you could get more logs about six feet long, that'll help. I’ll need six or so.”


In both examples, the latter sentences are much stronger than the ones that contain a filter word.


Note that not all filter words can or should be cut. Sometimes an occasional filter word works just fine. As with crutch words, a good tip is to keep a list of filter words handy and use the list to remove filter words during a round of editing.


 

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