Filler Busting: Fluff and How to Avoid It
Filler can be hard to grasp, and it can be even harder to fix. Here are a few tips to help you more easily identify filler, increasing your chances of attaining 4-star status.
Imagine you are in a movie theater, snacking on expensive popcorn and trying not to waste your drink in case the theater doesn’t offer free refills. You’re watching an epic movie about dragons attacking a town defended by noble warriors when you notice something: The movie is dragging on, and the narrator is taking forever to get to the point. Did he really just spend 20 minutes telling you something you understood in the first five? Did you really just pay $10 to see a movie without a plot? Why is the popcorn so expensive?
Maybe these look familiar: [Please avoid using filler content.] [Do not use fluff to reach the word count.] [Vary your word choice and sentence structure to avoid sounding choppy or repetitive.] Filler can be hard to grasp, and it can be even harder to fix. Here are a few tips to help you more easily identify filler, increasing your chances of attaining 4-star status:
Examine each sentence
Pull out a sentence and ask yourself if it enriches your article. Is the information something your reader would like to know? In this way, information that is off topic, repeated, or unnecessary can all be identified and discarded. If something is stated that the reader probably already knows, like "A deep fryer is a kitchen appliance that's used to deep fry food," then you know it's filler.
Filler content comes about when quantity is put above quality. Writing articles is not a race; spending more time on your articles will improve their quality, and your rating will come to reflect that.
Avoid overusing qualifiers
When sentences have too many qualifiers, they begin to sound wordy and dogmatic. Take this sentence for example: “I basically kind of went to the store and pretty much just bought some of these seemingly ripe fruits.” Understandably, it can sometimes be difficult to reach the word count, but extraneous words water down the content of your article. Qualifiers can also make your stance on a subject seem as if it is wavering. This website from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center can help you use qualifiers just enough.
Sometimes, our clients like to include explicit instructions in their orders. Filler is less likely to be a problem when instructions and formatting are more restrictive. On other occasions, clients give an author free rein to write about the topic. Filler tends to creep in when an author tries to write about a topic he or she doesn’t know much about. Research can go a long way in helping to reach an intimidating word-count minimum. If you can write from any angle, use that to your advantage, and choose something that you’re interested in. Passion and background knowledge can make writing come more naturally.
Vary your word choice and sentence structure
Repetition is a sure way to lose a reader’s interest. Repetition happens on a small scale when authors favor certain words. An article can sound very monotonous when every sentence begins with “moreover.” If you can’t think of a good word to replace the one you’ve used twice already, use a thesaurus! Do an Internet search for synonyms of your word, and you’ll be one step further from the fluff. Repetition can be seen on a larger scale when entire articles are comprised of similarly structured sentences. This is most likely to happen with very simple sentences that take on a “Dick and Jane” style. An article that uses the same sentence formula many times can seem repetitive to a reader even with varied word choice, such as “I went to the aquarium. Natalie was there. We got smoothies. It was thrilling.” It is easy to avoid this by mixing up the order of your sentences or combining some main ideas.
Pronouns help make writing less redundant. If you have already stated the subject in the sentence and plan on referring to it again, use a pronoun. Take this sentence for example: “When getting reimbursement for medical insurance, you want to be sure that you know exactly what your medical insurance policies are and that the medical insurance company does not take advantage of you.” The use of certain words in this sentence is certainly excessive. The same information could be shared more eloquently with fewer words: “When getting reimbursement for medical insurance, know the policies so that you receive an accurate payment.” Varying elements of your writing can produce a more entertaining article.
Strive for great writing
Setting the bar high is the best way to ensure a high-quality article. Remind yourself that your submissions receive feedback, that your writing is for a client whom you hope to impress, or that you are getting compensated—anything that will get you motivated. Nothing will improve your writing as much as your own investment in it. This doesn’t mean you should try to write outside of your comfort zone. Use words you’re familiar with, and stick to grammar and style that you know well.
An article full of filler is like a slow, dull movie; its sluggish and wayward plot keeps it from being enjoyable. An article without filler is an edge-of-your-seat film that keeps you wondering what exciting thing will happen next. You won’t even have to ration your soda because it will be sitting next to you, forgotten.
At Textbroker, we want you to succeed. When your writing improves, more orders will be available to you, and you will receive higher compensation. Keep these rules in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to eradicating filler once and for all.