Avoid These Filter Words To Strengthen Your Writing | Writer’s Relief

Jan 24, 2024 | Writing Tips

Avoid These Filter Words To Strengthen Your Writing | Writer’s Relief

When writing a short story or novel, you want your readers to be fully immersed as they experience the world through the eyes of your character. However, it’s important to watch for filter words in your narrative. Okay, we can see you all scratching your heads and wondering: filter words? These are words or phrases that create distance between the reader and the first-person POV of the character. While they may sometimes be necessary, often your writing is tighter and feels more dynamic when you edit out these superfluous words. The experts at Writer’s Relief have some tips and advice that will help you avoid unnecessary words and strengthen your writing.

How To Avoid Filter Words In Your Writing

Filter words often fall near the beginning of a sentence, and make your writing more “tell” rather than “show.” In this example, the moment is being “filtered” through the narrator:

I watched as the elephant charged at me.

When you eliminate the filter words, the sentence becomes stronger and more immediate:

The elephant charged at me.

You want your readers to see, feel, and experience what your narrator is seeing, feeling, and experiencing. Eliminating the filter words places the reader directly into the action. (Yikes! That angry elephant is headed right for me! Maybe I shouldn’t have taken all the peanuts!)

Filter words often relate to thought processes as opposed to engaging the senses. For example:

I noticed the clowns seemed frightened.

Instead, give the reader concrete evidence:

The frightened clowns screamed, jumped off their unicycles, and scrambled for the exit.

In the second example, it’s easier for readers to visualize what your character is experiencing. By eliminating filters, you can pull your readers right into the story. (And you can’t blame the clowns for hightailing it out of there, what with that charging elephant.)

While context will determine whether or not a word or phrase is being used as a filter, there are some words that are more likely to fall into this category. Here are examples:

  • Thought
  • Felt
  • Wondered
  • Decided
  • Seemed
  • Noticed
  • Watched
  • Heard
  • Looked
  • Saw
  • Remembered
  • Noted
  • Knew
  • Experienced

When you write your first draft, you may notice a lot of filter words—and that’s okay! This is what the editing phase of your writing is for. Use your second-draft editing session to intentionally remove any words that are unneeded and to rewrite your sentences so that they are leaner and stronger. Keep in mind, not every word that seems like a filter needs to be deleted. Having a few well-placed filter words can enhance your writing. If a word or phrase is necessary to the meaning or mood of the sentence—keep it in!

Once you’ve proofread, edited, and polished your story or novel to perfection, it’s time to submit your work for publication. We can help target the best markets and boost your odds of getting an acceptance or an agent request. Learn more about our services and submit your writing sample to our Review Board today!

Each writer has unique needs and goals. We can help you navigate traditional roads to publishing or provide expert guidance on the path to self-publishing from an experienced team of strategists.


Question: Which filter words do you notice in your writing?