Leave Fluff in the Pillows, not the Writing
Remember when you were in junior high and your ancient, crabby English teacher assigned a paper that had to be four pages? You would scratch out two and then begin the process of padding, adding whatever you could think of to reach that fourth page. Your paper was filled with profound statements like, “Shakespeare was a very good writer. He wrote a lot of plays that people liked back then. We still like his plays today because they were written so well.”
No wonder your teacher was gray and cranky.
But fluff has enjoyed resurgence in our adult writing lives thanks to the exploding content market and search engines. Now we need 375 words for a crawler to notice an article, and then we need lots of articles to prove we are worthy of a first-page Google ranking. As the competition increases, longer articles get more attention, and we are pressured to write tomes.
Enter fluff. This is the content that increases the length without increasing the quality. It could easily be cut without any loss of information or style. Fluff will bore your impatient reader and you will lose your integrity both with live readers and the post-Hummingbird web bots who know enough about language to sniff it out.
The Main Fluff Questions
How do you know if you have a fluffy article instead of a meaty one? Ask yourself this question and don’t lie!
Did I finish writing it, realize it was too short, and go back and add more?
If the answer to this is ‘yes,’ chances are that you added fluff. If you added an entire paragraph with new supporting information, you are probably fine. But if it was that relevant, why didn’t you include it in the first place?
If you added filler because you didn’t make the word count, then re-examine your content. Is it really a broad enough topic to warrant that number of words? Your topic or your supporting information may be too narrow.
Fluff comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It may not be an entire paragraph, or even an entire sentence. Fluff, like lint on your favorite shirt, can stick in small phrases.
You don’t have a fluffy phrase problem? Must be nice to be a perfect writer! Look at some of these examples and see if fluff has insidiously invaded your writing when you weren’t looking.
- · It is interesting to note (stop blathering and just note it, for heaven’s sake!)
- · I might add (see above…just add it!)
- · It should be pointed out (see 2 examples above)
- · The fact that…
This means in any sense..owing to the fact that…because of the fact that…in spite of the fact that, and so on. What should you use instead? Things like because, although, since…anything else!
Some Unnecessary Baggage
How about these meaningless content fillers?
- As to whether (just whether, please)
- This is a topic that (try ‘This topic)
- In a (adjective) manner (aggressive manner, hasty manner, etc): Make an adverb! Aggressively, hastily, etc.
Leave the cases at the door!
- It is the case that, it have never been the case, it is often the case…blah blah. Just cross it out. It has often been the case that blogs about writing give good advice becomes Blogs about writing give good advice. How refreshing!
Remember, make your point precisely and clearly. Your reader will thank you.