There are all kinds of words that seem to pop up in your story while you’re writing the first draft. They can make your writing sloppy, cause confusion, and take up space (sometimes all at once!). Some call them “filler words,” others “weasel words,” or any other variation of the term. I think we can all agree, though, that these words must be destroyed. But how do you identify them easily?
To figure out if a word is a weasel word, you should first find out which words you use the most. Read through something you’ve written recently—whether it be a blog post, poem, or an e-mail—and write down any words you find yourself using too frequently. My list includes:
How do you keep yourself from using these words? It’s pretty much unavoidable in the first draft. After all, you’re so focused on getting the words onto the page that you don’t notice which words you’re using. Once you start to revise, though, you should immediately start a search-and-destroy process to get rid of these weasels.
How to Quickly Remove Filler Words from Your Writing
A simple Ctrl + F command will take care of finding the words, but once you find them, you have to decide if you’re going to get rid of them. There are three questions you should ask yourself before getting rid of a weasel word.
1. Will my sentence make sense without it?
This is something you have to watch out for. If you delete every weasel word you find, you might end up with more confusion than before when the weasel word was still there! Say the sentence out loud, this time without the weasel word, and see if it has the same meaning. If it doesn’t, goodbye, weasel word. If it does, ask yourself this:
2. Does it sound natural?
Sometimes if a weasel word is used within dialogue, it should stay. Ask yourself if the sentence would sound weird or out of character if you took it out. Weasel words are usually acceptable if a specific character is using them. Usually.
3. Do I need it?
Ultimately, you have to decide if this word is necessary. Stop and think about it for a little while. Do you need this word? Is it helping to improve your writing? Is it harming your writing? Go with whatever is best for your story.
How about you? What are some of your worst weasel words?
What are your weasel words? Write for fifteen minutes about a weasel. Once you’ve finished, read over what you’ve written and write down your list of weasel words. Feel free to share the list and/or the story in the comments. Have fun!