Jessica Barker

Fluffy phrases are the empty calories of content creation. They might bulk up your word count, but they starve your message of meaning. 

A dollop of fluff might be a minor distraction to readers — but too much can quickly tip the scales. Verbosity can make your copy unreadable, untrustworthy and even spammy.

What Makes Writing Fluffy?

The main issues in fluffy writing are what I refer to as micro-fluff and macro-fluff. 

Micro-fluff describes pesky little phrases you don’t need. Macro-fluff describes entire sections you’re better off without. 

Long-winded sentences fall into a separate but related category. Sometimes, they’re just fluff. Other times, they’re crammed full of good information that needs space to breathe. Either way, they can do as much damage to your writing as micro- and macro-fluff.

As content creators, we’re all guilty of weaving these unnecessary pieces into our writing — but the best writers identify and cut the fluff while self-editing. Keep reading on to find out how.

1. Eliminating Micro-fluff for Clarity and Decisiveness 

The English language is full of seemingly innocuous filler words and phrases that add length to your copy without providing real value. 

Intensifiers like “really” and “very.” Wordy expressions that tee up your main points. Qualifying statements that sound fancy but actually show a lack of certainty. These bits of micro-fluff can distract from your meaning and drag down the quality and impact of your copy.

Identifying them is the first step; eliminating them requires a keen eye and a commitment to making (potentially a lot of) small but essential cuts. Replace short, fluffy phrases with more concise alternatives. You’ll boost readability and exhibit a more decisive tone.

For instance, look at the difference between these two sentences: 

  • “It’s very clear that we might possibly expect some sort of an increase.”
  • “We expect an increase.” 

Notice the shift? Without the micro-fluff, we get copy that’s clear, punchy and precise.

Micro-fluff Examples 

Here’s a rundown of micro-fluff phrases to avoid, with suggested fixes:

❌ “It is important/imperative/essential/critical to (verb)” ✅ “(Verb)”
❌ “It is very/really/fairly/pretty/quite (adjective)”✅ “It is (adjective)”
❌ “Due to the fact that”✅ “Due to”
❌ “Whether or not”✅ “Whether”
❌ “In order to”✅ “To”
❌ “In the event that”✅ “If”
❌ “It is”✅ “It’s”
❌ “As a matter of fact”✅ (Nothing; just state the fact)
❌ “As previously explained”✅ (Nothing; just move on)

2. Cutting Macro-fluff for Greater Substance 

Since micro-fluff is about the small stuff, macro-fluff concerns the big offenders: full sentences or sections that contribute to a bloated word count without adding real value.

Watch out for:

  • Bland or generic statements.
  • Redundant sections.
  • Long-winded clichés.
  • Vague or unsubstantiated claims.
  • Unnecessarily wordy expressions.
  • Platitudes.

How can you move away from this type of fluffy writing? By creating informative, value-packed content. Use as few words as possible to make your point. As you revise, make sure every sentence offers unique value to the reader and moves your narrative or argument forward.

Macro-fluff Example

Large-scale fluff can come in many forms, but one universal issue is redundancy. In content writing, it can be tempting to write in circles. When you’re using different words, it may look and feel like you’re saying something new — but you’re just wasting your reader’s time.

Here’s an example of macro-fluff in action, followed by a much shorter alternative:

❌ “Step 2: Check the bobbin

The second step to take when troubleshooting your sewing machine is to look at the bobbin. This is an essential measure to take if you want to get your machine up and running correctly, due to the fact that the bobbin is a critical part of machine sewing success. To check the bobbin, you’ll start by looking for it in the bobbin case. Take the bobbin out of its case.” 

✅ “Step 2: Check the bobbin

Take the bobbin out of its case.”

We can cut 70 words (!!) of fluff here. Why? Most of the copy states the obvious or reiterates the general idea of the article without adding anything new. 

As for the first sentence? Your reader already knows they’re looking at step 2; they don’t need a reminder. The copy immediately following a subhead needs to move the piece forward. 

3. Streamlining Long-Winded Sentences 

Long-winded sentences are rambling pieces of copy that exhaust readers before they get to the end. They usually contain multiple clauses and ideas, making it hard for readers to grasp the main point. 

They may be:

  • Grammatically incorrect run-ons. 
  • Full of fluff and redundant info. 
  • Jam-packed with critical information that needs room to breathe.
  • Suffering from overly complex sentence structures.

Most long sentences attempt to convey too much information at once. While you’re pouring words onto the page, you might feel like your writing is very clever and comprehensive. You’ve managed to tie several concepts, data points, and cause-and-effect relationships together in one neat little bow — right? 

You’re essentially drafting a brain dump. It’s an important part of the writing process, but it can’t be the end. If you don’t clean up the verbose bits, your writing will end up clunky and confusing. 

So, should you cut them from your copy? Not so fast. Some way-too-long sentences are pure fluff, sure. Others are pure genius — genius that needs its hair brushed and its tie straightened. 

During your anti-fluff editing work, carefully assess each one so you don’t risk cutting critical information. Aim to transform sprawling sentences into digestible, clear segments that guide the reader through your message effortlessly. Keep these best practices in mind, too:

  • If a sentence spans two or more lines in your Google Doc, trim it down. Split it up. Bullet it. Please!
  • Aim for short sentences of 25 words or less to support readability. 
  • Express just one idea per sentence for clarity.
  • Use varied sentence lengths and structures to help with pacing.
  • Remember that, even if a sentence is grammatically correct, it still needs to flow. 

Long-winded Sentence Examples

Here’s a lovely demonstration of what not to do (unless you’re a Victorian novelist):

❌ “While it is indisputably true that the utilization of overly complex and unnecessarily convoluted language in both spoken and written communication can, in fact, lead to a situation wherein the intended message becomes obscured, making it challenging for the audience to readily comprehend and fully grasp the intended meaning, it is of paramount importance for effective and efficient communication that individuals strive to employ clear, concise, and straightforward language to ensure that their ideas are conveyed with precision and clarity, thereby facilitating a more seamless exchange of information between the communicator and the audience.”

You probably didn’t even read that, did you? Good call. When writing your own copy, make sure your reader doesn’t hit an equally impenetrable wall of text.

Now for a pair of slightly more realistic examples:

❌ “In addition, a robust order management solution can also include customer engagement capabilities to support retention and enable customer loyalty and advocacy — such as surveys and social media analysis — to ensure you have the best view of your customers and can successfully guide them through the customer lifecycle.”

❌ “Power-line adapters, which are extremely simple to set up, turn a long-range Wi-Fi connection into a wired one by using your home’s electrical network, making it much more stable and less vulnerable but with the same if not better range and strength.”

These sentences suffer from their attempts to cover too much ground. They jump through several layers of benefits and reasons and examples. By splitting them up to clarify the relationships between ideas, we can more easily digest the information:

✅ “A robust order management solution can also include customer engagement capabilities to support retention, loyalty and advocacy. Surveys and social media analysis tools provide the best view of your customers.”

✅ “A power-line adapter turns a long-range Wi-Fi connection into a wired one by using your home’s electrical network. It improves your Wi-Fi’s stability, range and strength while reducing vulnerability. Plus, it’s easy to set up.”

Making Every Word Count

We may not catch every unnecessary phrase or rambling explanation in our writing. But as long as we aim to make every word count, we’re on the right path to making every piece of content count.

Thankfully, writers aren’t alone in our quest for conciseness. Tools like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor exist to help us find and fix the fluff. Look out for suggestions as you write or plug your first draft into either tool and see what it catches. Chances are, your unedited writing will be lit up with helpful suggestions.

If fluff represents the empty calories of writing, think of impactful copy as the nutrient-dense superfood. As readers consume your content, they’ll digest high-value insights in every bite. Talk about food for thought!