Filter words and phrases it’s best to avoid in writing fiction

writing tips


Today’s reblog is a fantastic post by Kathy Steinemann whose blog offers fabulous posts on writing tips and she wrote this informative featured article for another prolific writing blog I follow with Anne R. Allen.  Read and enjoy and see if you can pick out the errors.


A list of 80+ filter words it is best to avoid in writing fiction. Filter words separate the reader from the characters’ feelings.


This article provides a list of writing filters, with practical examples of how to replace them. You’ll also find exercises that can double as story prompts.


Popular advice recommends that writing include all five senses whenever possible.


Let’s evaluate a paragraph that complies with this recommendation.


Patricia heard steps on the front porch, and she smelled sulfur. She could taste bile rising into her throat. She couldn’t see anything in the dark, so she groped until she felt the familiar cold metal of her son’s baseball bat.


“What’s wrong with that?” you might ask. “The paragraph embraces all five senses.”


Please review the underlined words. They filter the events through Patricia’s perceptions. Let’s consider a different version.


Someone—or something—stomped across the front porch. The reek of sulfur overwhelmed Patricia’s nostrils, and bitter bile burned her throat. She groped in the darkness for a weapon. What was that? Ah, the comforting cold metal of her son’s baseball bat.


The second version employs strong verbs to transport readers into the action. Patricia hears stomping, she smells sulfur, she tastes bitter bile, she sees darkness, and she feels cold metal.


Or something, set off by em dashes, adds to the tension. The reek of sulfur leaves no doubt that the odor is unpleasant. Bitter bile burns her throat—a more effective taste reference. Familiar cold metal changes to comforting cold metal, a tell that adds to the paragraph.


All filter words (heard, smelled, taste, see, felt) were traded for active replacements.


If you don’t know what filter words are, you can’t avoid them.


Let’s review a partial list of filters and their close relatives. I tried to classify them logically, although some words could appear in multiple groups.


See: appear like, become aware of, detect, discern, distinguish, give the impression of, identify, look, look like, note, notice, observe, perceive, realize, recognize, reveal, seem, sense, sight, spot, watch


Smell: detect the smell of, diagnose, get a whiff of, scent, smell like, whiff


Hear: catch, eavesdrop, overhear, listen to, sound, sound like


Touch: feel, feel like


Taste: appreciate, delight in, enjoy, like, relish, savor, take pleasure in


Know: ascertain, assume, believe, bring to mind, decide, deem, discover, gather, get, glean, guess, infer, intuit, learn, posit, regard, remember, suspect, think, understand, wonder


Experience: be subjected to, face, go through, live through, suffer, take in, undergo


Be able to: be capable of, be equal to, be up to the task, can, could, have the ability to, have what it takes to Continue Reading . .


Source: Filter words and phrases it’s best to avoid in writing fiction