And now a word about padding. That’s what I call adding words to make up a word count. It happens a lot. Sometimes it happens without you being aware of what you are doing. For example, in that first sentence, I don’t need the word, ‘and’.
You just add the padding in without realizing it. I’m talking about unnecessary filler words. I’ve become better at not including them, but they do creep in. Unnecessary filler words are words like that, just, really, and others we put into sentences but which serve no actual purpose. They pad out the word count and add nothing to the meaning of the sentence. This is why we revise our work. If you can read the sentence with and without the word without a change in meaning, the word should be cut. That’s the rule of thumb.
Every word in every sentence should work at something in the overall piece. “She picked up the newspaper that was lying on the porch” could be changed to “she picked up the newspaper lying on the porch.” It’s like putting your writing on a diet. You could leave the words in, glutting your prose, but if you want to keep your readers, you should make your writing as lean and mean as you can.
Not all filler words need to go. The word ‘that’ is one of the filler words we can cut from sentences without losing meaning. One good way to find and eliminate them is to use the search function in your writing application. Open your latest work file and search for the word that. Then read the sentence in which the word appears twice, once with the word and once without. If the meaning doesn’t change, cut it out and go on the next one. I know, it’s tedious, but your writing will be better for it. I found after becoming aware of the filler words, I started leaving them out when I write the first draft. A lot of times you only have to be aware of using them. It’s not only ‘that’ you need to be aware of, either. The words really, then, just, even, completely, totally, and said are a few words you can cut without losing meaning. The internet has a number of sites listing these unnecessary words.
Take a piece of writing and try cutting out those particular words. You will find the meaning didn’t change and the writing got tighter and stronger, which is what we are looking to do with our writing. No one ever claimed revision was fun, but it is necessary. Remove the unnecessary words and you will find your work greatly improved. Google the term, ‘unnecessary words’ or ‘filler words’ and you will find these sites. Check it out for more information.