Strengthen Your Prose

Eliminate Distancing Verbs aka Filter Words

Distancing verbs are words that filter the reader’s experience by placing them one step away from the narrative. How do they do this?

-They hedge. These words can appear hesitant or unconfident. Just say it, don’t hedge.

-They remind the reader that he/she is reading. You want to draw the reader in so he/she is absorbed into the character’s thoughts and actions.

-They are weak verbs. You can use strong verbs without turning to purple prose.

Examples of distancing verbs and words:

Realize                                   Saw

Watched                               Looked

Seemed                                 Felt

Can                                         Decided

Sounded                               Knew

Heard                                     Thought

Touched                                 Wondered

Noticed                                  Was/were able to

Noted                                     Experienced


Problem:  The water seemed to be cloudier than ever.

Fix: The water was cloudier than ever.


Problem: He thought he’d never seen a cuter dog.

Fix: He’d never seen a cuter dog.


Problem: She felt sad when she lost the race.

Fix: Tears ran down her face when she crossed the finish line in second place.


Problem: They saw two buzzards eating a dead skunk.

Fix: Two buzzards pecked at a dead skunk.


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