We all know that verbal fillers in our personal and business conversations are unnecessary and distracting.
Use of the dreaded um, er, you know, kind of and my personal favorite, like, in adulthood might indicate the residual effects of childhood trauma (because your parents lectured you incessantly to delete these wasted words).
If you favor verbal fillers when you talk, you possibly use fillers when you write. I’m not saying that you do. But be honest: Do you have a tendency to crank out “fluffernuttered” sentences in your marketing copy and blog posts? If so, you should recognize the problem, seek shorter alternatives, and edit your content for clarity.
I don’t claim to be the most succinct person. Sometimes, even I slip into a few verbose habits. (And when it happens, I’m most definitely not slipping into something more comfortable!) That’s why I painstakingly edit my blog posts and clients’ projects until they “read” more like Hemingway than Chaucer.
This list will put you and your keyboard (whether a virtual or clickety-clack physical one) on the proper path. The additional resources toward the end of this post should keep you on that path. And remember: To write is human; to edit, divine…
If Something Is “Due to the Fact,” It’s “Because”…: I think I’ve done a good job of eliminating this one from my own content, but I’ll neurotically double-check from now on. A variation of “due to the fact” to purge from your copy is “in view of the fact that…”
Here’s the glaring problem, with a suggested fix in sentence format:
Due to the fact that Ian’s marketing assistants were posting too many selfies on the company’s blog, he confiscated their mobile devices.
Because Ian’s marketing assistants were posting too many selfies on the company’s blog, he confiscated their mobile devices.
And “As a Matter of Fact,” You’re Better Off Using “In Fact” or “Actually”: Who among us will cast the first stone and say they’ve never used this phrase in conversation? “In fact” or “actually” are better choices (I know I’ve used both). Put down that rock and pledge you’ll say or write this filler nevermore!
My sample sentences should convince you (forevermore):
As a matter of fact, I’ve spent many years developing an immunity to using abbreviations in text messages.
Actually, I’ve spent many years developing an immunity to using abbreviations in text messages.
(Most experts would suggest you not bother resolving this written filler and just delete the d@mn thing.)
Never Use “With the Possible Exception of”– Try “Other Than” or “Except For”: Guilty reveal: I’m fairly confident I’ve uttered this as a verbal filler. However, I don’t recall ever using it in a blog post or a client’s manuscript. (At least I pray I’ve never keyed it into a Word document.)
For your consideration, the annoying long version and the improved short version:
With the possible exception of butt-dialing, Clotilde’s grandmother hasn’t mastered any of her new iPhone 6’s features.
Other than butt-dialing, Clotilde’s grandmother hasn’t mastered any of her new iPhone 6’s features.
When Something “Appears on the Surface to Be,” It Just “Is” or “Seems to Be”: My conscience is clear regarding this filler. I’ve never used it, and I never will. I’m fatigued merely from writing such verboseness in a blog post. Who possibly conjured it into existence?
No matter–here’s the quick fix:
Your blog post’s hyperbolic headline appears on the surface to be a bait-and-switch tactic.
Your blog post’s hyperbolic headline is a bait-and-switch tactic. (Or: Your hyperbolic headline seems to be a bait-and-switch tactic.)
“I’ve Come to the Realization” That “I Realize” (Or “Know”) Something: For the love of Strunk and White, if someone accosts you with this filler, ask that person to wipe it from memory. Never use it in business content.
First-person singular may be too obvious a target; I won’t spare any red ink for the first-person-plural version.
Let’s proceed to the sample sentences, shall we?
At The Thirsty Thistle, we’ve come to the realization that our customers are more than Facebook followers–they’re kindred spirits!
At The Thirsty Thistle, we realize our customers are more than Facebook followers–they’re kindred spirits!
When Customers “Derive Great Pleasure from” Your Product, Do They Also “Enjoy” It?: Right now, I derive great pleasure from beseeching you never to use this pompous string of words again (in this life or the next).
Sure, I enjoy using sophisticated language in my copy. (We’ll save my favorites for another blog post.) But be advised–wasting space with filler translates into a tiresome editing process.
And so, without further ado…
Our customers tell us they derive great pleasure from our new Kale, Kohlrabi, and Kimchi Kombo!
Our customers tell us they enjoy our new Kale, Kohlrabi, and Kimchi Kombo!
Mr. Jefferson’s “When in the Course of Human Events” Is Too Dang Long: Yes, I’m acutely aware this phrase belongs to the opening salvo of our country’s Declaration of Independence.
But Thomas Jefferson wrote this sacred document way back in 1776. I don’t think he’ll mind if you refrain from borrowing his famous words.
After all, why use more than a half-dozen words when you can limit yourself to just one bon mot? Your high-speed laser printer will thank you…
“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…”
When it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…
The Written-Filler Hall of Shame:
- I am of the opinion that… / Solution: I believe
- There is a tendency to… / Solution: (I/you/people) tend to
- On the grounds that/on the basis of/on account of the fact that… / Solution: Because
- Make a determination… / Solution: Determine
- It is only a matter of time before… / Solution: Eventually (or delete it altogether)
- In regard to… / Solution: Regarding
- In the near future… / Solution: Soon
- Based in large part on… / Solution: Based on
- In this day and age… / Solution: Currently
- Somewhere in the neighborhood of… / Solution: About
- The extent to which… / Solution: Delete the d@mn phrase altogether!
For more help eliminating wordiness from your business content, bookmark and use G. Kim Blank’s “Wordiness, Wordiness, Wordiness List,” Grammarist’s cheat sheet, this list from Daily Writing Tips, and Ragan’s cheat sheet.
Why do you think we humans write wordy copy, even though we’re encouraged to keep it simple (stupid)? Which of these phrases have you used (unknowingly, of course) in your web/blog copy or printed marketing collateral?
Writers who support your freedom of brevity include the aforementioned Ernest Hemingway as well as Stephen King and William Zinsser. Don’t count on any useful guidance from James Joyce or William Faulkner.
Filler is as filler does, so write lean, mean content for a “stickier” marketing machine (or die trying). A red pen (aka the Delete key on your keyboard) is a terrible thing to waste!
Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business-to-business (B2B) writing, editing, and research company in Marlton, New Jersey. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print or web marketing and educational copy. Please call Lori Shapiro at 856-810-9764 or e-mail By All Writes LLC at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-obligation project quote today!