Writers Write is a comprehensive resource for writers. In this post, we give you four ways to remove padding words from your writing.
Modifiers and qualifiers are padding words that add little to your writing, but they sneak in anyway.
- Take note of the words: a bit, a lot of, almost, every, nearly, quite, and very.
- Also, consider your use of adverbs and adjectives in general.
Jane was a bit nervous. This was her first night. The bar was very full. It was half-price drink night. “Waitress, get your sexy little ass over here,” the very hairy man called loudly. He hit the table quite viciously with his fist. Jane was very annoyed, but walked quickly to get to his table. “About bloody time,” he said, looking at her rudely. The tray nearly tipped and she almost spilled the drinks all over the man. He ducked a bit avoiding the tray, but she luckily managed to right it before it fell. It was a bit noisy and she had to speak up, “I’m sorry.” She smiled and placed the drinks on the table. Hoping he wouldn’t complain to the manger. She nodded and was just about to turn when he put his fat hairy hand on her butt and squeezed. She was quite offended. Then he said, “Thanks babe, no need to apologise. I’ll duck under you any time.” Her smile remained very firmly in place as she leaned back over the table. He looked very excited. She moved a little closer, pushed his chin up with her finger, forcing him to look at her. “Like you said - no need to apologise.” She took his beer and poured it all over his lap. She walked very slowly back to the counter.
Look at what happens when we remove them:
Jane clung to the black plastic tray. Her first night, half-price drink night. The place was teeming, a mass of semi-pissed humanity. “Waitress, get your sexy little ass over here,” the hairy ogre bellowed and slammed his fist on the table. More than semi-pissed already. Biting back a retort, she strode to him. “About bloody time,” he said, casting his beady red eye over her. The tray tipped, the glasses teetered on the brink, but she saved them in time. He ducked, avoiding the tray. Pity. The music thumped, she raised her voice, “I’m sorry.” She smiled, arranging the drinks on the table. Hoping he wouldn’t complain to the manger. She nodded and turned to leave. His hand snaked around her, his thick fingers sinking into her butt. He squeezed harder. “Thanks babe, no need to apologise. I’ll duck under you any time.” Fury blossom, but her smile remained in place as she leaned back over the table. He licked his pink, fish lips in anticipation, his eyes glued to her chest. She moved closer, tilted his head up with her finger, forcing him to look at her. “Like you said - no need to apologise.” She tipped his beer into his lap and strolled back to the counter.
Regardless of Jane’s career prospects (I believe the manager was cheering her on from behind the bar) we can tell more about the story in the second example than we can in the first. It is also simpler, stronger and easier to read.
4 Ways To Remove Padding Words
- Remove modifiers and qualifiers. Most of them are supporting weak nouns and verbs.
- Use strong nouns instead of adjectives. Be specific.
- Use strong verbs instead of adverbs of manner. Be specific.
- Show. Don’t tell. Always.
The more you practise, the easier it will get. Happy writing.
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- If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme.
by Mia Botha