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Filter Words: What Are They and How to Avoid Them

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Thu Nov 25, 2021 6:51 am
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PoetryMisfit says...

Hi there!

Recently, I discovered what I call "narrative disruptions", which I've unwittingly used in my own writing, and are otherwise called filter words. What are filter words, you ask? Well, essentially they are verbs often used to preface a character's thoughts or actions that tell the reader what the characters are doing rather than letting the thoughts or actions speak for themselves.

Why is this bad? Well, unless you intentionally want the narrator's voice to be heard telling the story, you do not want want to use filter words because they prevent readers from fully immersing in your story. They can also distract readers from the plot by weighing your sentences down with more words than are necessary to describe a scene or your character's emotion as they experience them.

Let's compare and contrast two sentences to show you what I mean.

Filtered sentence: "Jenny decided she would take the bus rather than walk to school because of the rain, and noticed the boy who took the same route as her every day had done the same."

Unfiltered sentence: "Jenny took the bus rather than walked to school because of the rain, and the boy who took the same route as her every day had done the same."

I really hope this has been useful to someone, because once I learned about these little "narrative disruptions" and avoided them, my writing became so much stronger. And please, share your thoughts, I'd love to know what you think. :)

- PoetryMisfit

Surround yourself with people who are serious about being writers, and who will tell you, ‘Hey—you can do better than this.’ Who will be critical of your work, but also supportive. And who will not be competitive in a negative way.
— Isabel Quintero