13 Steps To Avoid Fluff Writing

Fluff writing is the enemy of good writing. It distracts readers from the core message of the text, and it can also make readers uninterested. Whether you are a first-time author, a freelance writer, or a copywriter, avoiding this will help you succeed in your writing career. Keep reading to learn more!

Avoid Fluff Writing

What is fluff in writing and why should you avoid it?

Fluff writing is when there is unnecessary information, words, sentences, or phrases irrelevant to the work’s main point. It is like putting too much dressing on your salad or too much ketchup on your fries.

You want to avoid fluff writing because it can make your writing unenjoyable, much like a salad drenched in olive oil!

When there are unnecessary sentences or complex words, readers stop reading. Plus, the average human attention span is around 8 seconds, so you don’t want to give readers any excuse to lose focus.

13 Steps to avoid fluff writing

It’s important to know that overcoming fluff in writing is something that all writers, new and experienced, have faced.

It often happens because you want to share too much or write the same way you talk.

Either way, fluff writing is a growing pain that every great writer will have to overcome at some point in their career.

And it’s important to pay attention to it, especially when you are writing about a great book topic – you don’t want to lose your audience. That said, here are some key steps to help avoid fluff writing:

1. Create a writing plan or outline

Writing a book outline or even an article outline is essential for any piece of writing that you do. It’s also a great way to avoid those fluff words!

A good plan will:

  • Help you avoid adding irrelevant information to your content
  • Work out a logical structure
  • Find the best words to convey your thoughts and ideas

It can be tempting to start writing straight away, especially if you have lots that you want to say, but planning will save you time and effort later on in the editing stage.

2. Write concise sentences

Writing is not a simple task. It’s easy to get carried away on the keyboard and type out long and drawn-out sentences. However, from a reader’s perspective, long sentences aren’t attractive.

Consider the medium you’re writing for. If you’re creating online content, your sentences must be to the point to hold readers’ attention. Aim to write clear, short, and concise sentences.

What that means is to write as few words as possible to communicate a clear message. Here are some examples.

Fluff sentence: I study Spanish in order to communicate with my in-laws.

Concise sentence: I study Spanish to communicate with my in-laws.

Instead of: When I started my own freelance writing business, it helped me gain a brand new understanding of entrepreneurship.

Write: Becoming a freelance writer helped me better understand entrepreneurship.

Did you see that fluff in writing can make simple sentences long and complicated?

Pro tip: A fun way to practice writing concisely is by posting on X formerly known as Twitter. With its 280-character limitation, it’ll help you cut down on the number of words in your writing.

3. Avoid filler and crutch words

Filler words and crutch words can be a writer’s Achilles heel and a top contributor to fluff writing. You use filler words to fill empty spaces when you are talking.

These are words such as “like, just, really, basically” etc. When you use these words so much in your speech, they sometimes sneak into your writing.

Crutch words are filler words that are specific to the writer. As you edit the article, if you look back on your pre-edited drafts, you might notice you often use certain words such as basically, certainly, definitely, just, etc.

These words can make your writing appear repetitive and make it seem like you’re unsure of yourself. Here are examples of sentences with and without filler words.

Example 1

With filler words: At the end of the day, Sue was chosen for her hard work.

Without filler words: The team chose Sue for her hard work.

Example 2

With filler words: I was basically the first one to arrive.

Without filler words: I was the first to arrive.

Notice how these words seem common when you speak but don’t come across as clear in writing.

Pro tip: To avoid fluff words, create a list of filler words you often use and refer to that list when you’re writing or editing your work.

Another top tip is to search for words such as “that,” “start,” and “rather.” If the sentence still makes sense without these words, you can cut them out.

Watch out for redundant words, too. Phrases such as “personal opinion” and “free gift” can be replaced with “opinion” and “gift” without changing the meaning of your sentence.

4. Cut the jargon

When you’re writing about different topics, especially some advanced topics, such as medicine or science, it can be easy to use jargon.

Jargon words are words specifically related to a certain profession or field of study. The general public doesn’t know these words.

It’s not uncommon to think that using jargon will make your writing appear professional and intellectual.

However, using jargon is another example of fluff writing. Here are some jargon words you’ll want to avoid.

Examples of jargon words: circle back, henceforth, foregoing, touch bases.

5. Write from the perspective of your readers and aim to give value

Another simple way to avoid fluff in writing is to write from the perspective of your readers. When writing or editing your piece, you can ask yourself what your readers want to know. What is most valuable to them?

Understanding that perspective makes it easier to choose which information to include and which information to leave out.

When writing for an intended audience, create a reader persona including details such as reader interests and profession.

Next, find connections between you and your audience. Think about the information that you and your readers both know about. Lastly, add value and be engaging.

Adding value comes down to helping your readers by offering solutions or providing an interesting story.

Making your writing engaging is about writing rich and interesting sentences that help readers use their imagination or words and phrases that readers can relate to.

6. Use expressive verbs

Another way to make your writing engaging is to use expressive verbs. It’s a helpful tool for authors as descriptive verbs can help readers better picture what’s happening in the scenes in your book.

That said when using expressive verbs, you want to be mindful of adding fluff words.

Here are examples describing the direction someone is walking using expressive verbs. One contains fluff and one doesn’t.

Example: Instead of writing, “she began stumbling over toward where the bridge was“, you can simply write, “she began stumbling toward the bridge” and still maintain the expressive quality of the sentence.

As mentioned, expressive verbs help paint a picture for the reader but you don’t want to over do it.

Pro tip: If you’re struggling with finding expressive words, you can use a thesaurus to help you out.

7. Don’t state the obvious

A somewhat challenging task when it comes to avoiding fluff writing is knowing exactly which information you should include. There are certain words you can omit because of common knowledge.

Writing sentences such as “He looked up at the blue sky” states the obvious. Everyone knows the sky is blue, and it doesn’t need to be stated.

A way to avoid this is by asking yourself what information your audience knows and wants to know. Make it one of your writing goals to avoid obvious, unnecessary words.

8. Use active voice instead of passive voice

Writing like this can be a little more technical, but it’s a powerful way to eliminate unnecessary words and phrases.

When the subject of a sentence you write is performing the action or the verb, it’s active voice. For example: Bob threw the ball.

When the subject you write is affected by the action or verb, it’s passive voice. For instance: The ball was thrown by Bob.

Using a passive voice can make sentences sound too wordy and long. Another reason is that passive sentences can appear uncertain and make you seem unsure of your writing.

If you want to eliminate fluff in your writing, use more active voice and less passive voice.

Protip: Use tools such as Hemingwayapp.com to help you identify passive voice.

9. Train your brain to eliminate fluff with a writing exercise

Similar to sports, eliminating fluff writing takes time and practice. So here are exercises to help you eliminate fluff in your writing.

Brutally edit your writing

Free writing is a common exercise and is also known as automatic writing. You write everything that comes to your brain and don’t stop until you reach a time limit.

For instance, if you free-write for three minutes and get to 200 words, you can then edit what you wrote to 100 or 150 words.

Learn from other authors

The simplest way to eliminate fluff words from your writing is to read and study the writings of authors who avoid jargon in their written work. An author such as Ernest Hemmingway is a great one to model after.

In addition, if you write for a target audience, read what your audience would read. To go a little further, you can read your competitors’ content and try to edit their article to be more concise.

10. Cut the cliches

Cliches are phrases that has been used many times, causing the phrases to lose their meaning and impact.

Cliches are fluff because they typically contain unnecessary words, and the meaning may not be clear.

Some of the most common cliches include:

  • At the end of the day
  •  Loose cannon
  • Think outside the box
  •  A can of worms
  • The grass is always greener

11. Delete the parentheses

One good writing habit to develop is to notice parentheses. Parentheses are designed to give the reader more information that isn’t essential to the sentence. Therefore, it can be argued that they don’t belong in concise writing.

If you use parentheses, pause and ask whether the content is needed. If it is, rewriting the sentence is a more effective way to write and eliminate the fluff.

12. Use contractions

A contraction is when two words are blended together to make one word. The purpose of a contraction is to make sentences shorter and better, eliminating any fluff.

As they are used in speech, contractions can make your writing more conversational, ensuring your reader feels included.

Common contractions are:

  • It’ll (it will)
  • Could’ve (could have)
  • We’re (we are)
  • He’s (he is/he has)
  • There’re (there are)

13. Edit your work

Once you’ve finished a draft of your written work, take a break. Looking at your content with a fresh pair of eyes can make it easier to spot fluff in your writing.

A good way to edit your work is to read each paragraph out loud and ask yourself whether each word adds value. If it doesn’t, take it out to make your writing more concise and fluff-free.

Printing your work out and doing some manuscript proofreading is another effective way to edit your work and spot ways to improve it.

Apart from that, read, read, and read again!

There are also several writers tools including editing software that can help you with this process.

Expert tip: Don’t overuse big words

I have found that an effective way to eliminate fluff words from my writing is to simply use common words. I personally try to avoid big words that require my readers to reach for the dictionary.

A common misconception about using everyday words is that you are dumbing the content down. It isn’t true. Using language your audience understands means you’re talking directly to them, which is the best way to engage readers and keep them reading.

So instead of writing “utilize” say “use”. The meaning is the same, but “use” is easier to read in a sentence. I also use “start” instead of “commence” and “stop” instead of “cease.”

Ultimately, these words allow people to understand what you’re saying and use the information you give them.

Type of writing to aim for

You want to write text that brings value to readers, serves a purpose, and ultimately achieves a goal. But if you write with fluff, the goal is lost under a mountain of words.

High-quality, fluff-free writing has:


Writing concisely takes practice, so don’t get too disheartened if you don’t get it right the first time.

Remember these key tips so you can write with clarity:

  • Replace phrases with words wherever possible
  • Change negatives to affirmatives
  • Delete unnecessary qualifiers such as “kind of” and “probably”

Strong vocabulary

Nobody wants to read the same word over and over again. Writing free of fluff will contain a wide range of vocabulary that may even teach the reader something new!

A clear voice

It’s important that your personality comes across in your writing. Your unique voice is conveyed through your word choice, sentence structure, and point of view.

Remain consistent, and your audience will have a clear picture of who you are as a writer. Understanding voice and types of tone for writing can only help you.

What are fluff in writing examples?

Fluff writing can happen without you even realizing it, especially for new writers and first time authors. Here are a few examples to help you see its impact on a piece of text.

Example 1

This paragraph qualifies as fluff writing:

The majority of people enjoy the weather in the summer. It’s the best time of year to do a variety of activities outside such as go to the park or the beach, go for a swim in the sea or a pool, or simply soak up the sun and sunbathe.

Meaningful content:

Summer is the perfect time of the year to enjoy walking, swimming, sunbathing, or taking a trip to the park or beach.

Example 2

Fluff writing:

As it’s September 25th, it’s only three months until Christmas. Did you know that’s roughly only 12 weeks?

It can be hard knowing what to buy your children for Christmas, but to help you, you could ask them to write a letter to Santa that contains ideas for what they would like him to bring them on Christmas Eve.

Meaningful content:

It’s almost the festive season! An activity, like writing a fun letter to Santa, can help you determine what to buy your children this year.

What does it mean to write fluff?

Writing fluff is content that slows the reader down. It delays people getting the answers they want, so they will likely go elsewhere for their content. Simply put, if it doesn’t add value, you should get rid of it.

Fluff contributes unnecessarily to your book word count and makes the purpose of your piece muddled. Fluffy sentences and paragraphs often confuse the reader because they go off-topic. If a reader doesn’t understand what you’re trying to say, it puts doubt in their mind about the quality of what is written.

If you’ve enjoyed this article on how to avoid fluff writing, check out these other articles for more ideas!

Write better and reach more readers!

Whether you want to become an author or a journalist, avoiding fluff writing is essential. And if being a better writer is something you want to achieve, it’s important to be mindful when writing.

Pay attention to crutch and filler words, avoid long sentences and paragraphs, don’t use jargon words, and continue to practice writing concisely.

These tips will transform your writing and make you write like a pro. And you can do some extra research by reading articles like the best books on writing and the best self-publishing companies.

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