Clutter words do exactly what the name suggests and clutter up your writing with words and phrases that don’t provide any extra information or meaning to your reader.
Let's look at how to spot clutter words in your writing and how to replace them to create more meaning in your sentences.
What Are They and How to Avoid Them?
Clutter words are extraneous words or phrases that don’t add substantial meaning to a sentence. They make your writing more verbose and less effective. Common examples include “actually,” “basically,” “really,” and “very.”
Here’s an example of clutter words:
- I actually think that this is basically a really good idea.
In this sentence, the clutter words don’t add to the meaning. A clearer way to say this would be, “I think this is a good idea.”
Using clutter words can make your writing feel bloated and detract from its power. By removing these unnecessary words, you make your writing more concise.
Sometimes, you might want to use clutter words for emphasis or stylistic reasons. But most of the time, you’ll benefit from cutting them out.
How Clutter Words Affect Your Readers
Clutter words can slow down readers. With these redundant terms, you risk losing the reader’s interest as they wade through unnecessary words.
- Very often, people just really overuse these kinds of words.
While grammatically correct, this sentence feels heavy. A streamlined version is, “People often overuse these words.”
Depending on the context, clutter words can make your writing feel amateurish and less professional.
Consider these examples:
- I actually have three books that I really like.
Removing “actually” and “really” creates a stronger sentence: “I have three books that I like.”
- Basically, this is just a summary of the main point.
Simpler is better: “This is a summary of the main point.”
When Are Clutter Words Okay?
Occasionally, clutter words might serve a stylistic or rhetorical purpose:
- It’s really, really important to understand this concept.
Here, repetition emphasizes the importance.
However, in formal, academic, or professional writing, it’s generally best to avoid clutter words.
Clutter words, while seemingly harmless, can weigh down your writing and make it less engaging. Being aware of these words and removing them when they don’t add value will create clearer, more impactful communication. By cutting the clutter, you’ll convey your ideas more directly and persuasively. Whether in a business report, academic paper, or casual email, decluttering your writing leads to a more positive reading experience.