Cut the Fluff

You know fluffy writing can dilute your message. Here’s how to recognize it when it happens.  

What do we mean by “fluff” in your writing? It can take many forms: long sentences that add no value to the story, unnecessary “crutch” words here and there, superlative or redundant adjectives and adverbs, or excessive jargon are all common ways fluffiness creeps into content. Once you start actively looking for fluff, you’ll find it taking up space in all kinds of places – both in your own writing and in other people’s content, too. Fluffy writing is a writer’s worst enemy for two reasons: you’re depending on crutches, jargon, complexity or description to carry the message (lazy writing) and you’re actively making the key message harder to discern for your audience. 

While the list of go-to fluff phrases is different for every writer, the consequences are the same. That’s why you need to know what fluff is and where it likes to hide in your writing.

Here is a list of the most common fluff words and phrases you might be guilty of using.

  • A lot
  • Really
  • Very
  • Just
  • Even
  • Totally
  • Completely
  • Obviously
  • Absolutely
  • Literally
  • Maybe
  • Irregardless
  • In order to
  • Increasingly important
  • Picking up steam
  • In other words
  • At the end of the day
  • At the current time
  • Due to the fact that

There’s nothing wrong with using the occasional fluff word or phrase in your writing, but it’s important not to depend on them. Excessive fluff in your writing can hurt both you and your brand long-term. How, you ask?

Fluffy writing can drown out the real message and purpose of your content. It often makes sentences longer, indirect, and unclear; this disrupts a reader’s ability to absorb your message effectively. Fluff also detracts from the authenticity of your brand. If you cannot tell your story in a concise and effective manner, your audience will have a harder time trusting what you say. Your readers will feel like their time has been wasted, leaving them less likely to trust your writing and finish reading. Actively excising fluffiness will make your writing more direct and more effective in almost every case.

The good news is that fluff writing habits are easy to break. Here are three simple tips to help you cut the fluff from your writing:

  • Edit yourself – Read through everything before you send it. Find at least one thing you can improve and fix it. If you make this a consistent habit, you will begin to spot your crutch words as you compose. 
  • Use fluff words sparingly – Keep this list handy and add to it as you identify your crutch words. Kill them mercilessly from your writing.  
  • Keep your writing concise – Ask yourself if the words and phrases advance the story, message, or idea. If the answer is no, edit. The shorter a piece of content is, the more important every single word in it, is. If a word isn’t doing its job and you only have 15 words to work with… find a better word. 

The most effective communication is compelling and authentic. Your writing should be too.