Filtering in Writing

Filter words. It can be so tempting to use them, but they weaken your writing, especially when overused. One of the most common issues I spot when editing is the use of filtering.  From my experience it’s a common habit for new authors and one that can be hard to break. Even yours truly had to learn to break the habit. Let’s get started on how to spot and revise filtering.

What is filtering? Filtering words are words that place your character between an important detail and your reader because the detail gets filtered through your character’s point of view. These filter words can tell us sensory details, what a character sees or feels, and what they think. Filtering can make it hard for readers to connect to your world because it creates distance between the reader and your narrator. Filtering can also lead to telling instead of showing. You can show us how your character feels about their world through dialogue and character development, but we don’t need details and actions filtered through their point of view. Let us connect directly to the world. Continue reading

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Toward/Towards: Which One to Use?

I’ve often seen authors get confused over which form to use when it comes to toward and towards. I know I had to look it up when I first started writing. Seeing both forms being used in books and on the Internet only seems to confuse writers more on which one they should be using. I notice people around me often use towards in speech. Heck, even I notice myself using this form.

Technically both forms are correct. Which one you use depends on where you live and what style guide you follow. If you are American, you’ll want to use toward. For you style guide sticklers, both Chicago and AP style use toward. But if you use British English, you’ll use towards.

Other words act similarly in American vs. British English. Similar examples include afterward, downward, upward, backward, and forward. In American English they lose the s, and in British English you add the s. Be careful about sticking to only one form. I see authors switch between toward and towards when they aren’t sure which one they should be using. If you’re worried about this, when you’re editing do a search for the form you don’t want to use and replace it with the correct one.

 

Awhile Versus A While

This pesky little issue of when to use “awhile” or “a while” used to confuse me. I see them being used interchangeably, but that is not grammatically correct. It took a few explanations to find one that helped me figure out which one to use, so I’m going to pass this knowledge on.

But first, let’s go over the differences. Awhile is an adverb and literally means “for a while” or “for a time.” So it acts as an adverb typically would, where a while doesn’t since it’s a noun. This is key to distinguishing which one to use.

Basically, if you aren’t sure of which one to use, try substituting a noun or an adverb and see which one makes sense. If an adverb makes sense, you use awhile. If a noun makes since, you a while. Let’s do some practice examples of this.

Take the sentence “Go walk awhile.” Now let’s replace it with a different adverb. “Go walk quickly.” Makes sense, right? A noun wouldn’t in this case. “Go walk year.” See? So awhile is correct in this case.

Now let’s do an example with a while. “Go walk for a while.” See, this sentence is a little different than the previous one. “Go walk for a quickly” wouldn’t work this time due to the preposition “for” being used. But if you replace it with a noun, it makes sense. “Go walk for a day.” So if a preposition is being used, like in this case, it’s a big clue that you need to use a while instead of awhile since you are dealing with a noun and not an adverb. If you’re still not sure, try the noun vs. adverb test.

Hope this helps!