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Filler Words in Writing

People who have taken a public speaking class or training know to remove/limit filler words like “umm” when presenting. However, many people do not know how to recognize filler words in their writing because a clear list doesn’t exist.

Today’s writing tip provides one of countless filler words that can exist in academic documents.

Original Sentence: THE NATURE OF this research study is more exploratory than explanatory.

“Nature” is a noun that refers to “the inherent character or basic constitution,” “disposition,” “temperament” or “inner force” (Merriam-Website, 2021). So, the question is: Can a research study have a nature? Technically, no because the writer would be attributing human characteristics to an inanimate object (sounds familiar? it’s an anthropomorphism).

The second issue is the construction of the sentence. With the filler word “nature” as the subject of the sentence, the true subject (“research study”) gets buried in a prepositional phrase (“of the research study”). Prepositional phrases are descriptors, not part of the core sentence, so they can be removed, and the meaning of the sentence remains intact. When removing the prepositional phrase, the sentence reads: The nature is more exploratory than explanatory. This sentence does not capture the intent or real subject of this sentence.

These two issues are corrected in the sentence below:

Edited Sentence: This research study is more exploratory than explanatory.

Notice that the filler word (“nature”) is deleted so that the true subject can start the sentence. You may not always notice filler words when drafting a document, but you should check for them when editing, especially if you have the tendency to use them when speaking.

Cultivating tip at a time!

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