What is Fluff in Writing and How to Fix It

Julia Dupuis
Kassidy Vavra
February 28, 2022
Last updated:
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I value your time. That’s the promise that good writers make to their readers. It’s the message that underlies clear, focused content and helps you establish a relationship with your audience. I value your time. I respect your intelligence. I will hold your interest. Fluff betrays that promise. Fluff in writing is anything that doesn’t add value to a piece. It includes wordy phrases, empty clichés or generalities, and needless repetition or digression. It annoys search engines as well as readers and doesn’t belong in your content.

Let’s de-fluff your writing. Here’s how to recognize fluff and some strategies to fix or avoid it.

What is Content Fluff? 

Good writing is full but not bloated. It develops its topic but communicates its points clearly and efficiently.

In contrast, fluff in writing gets in the way of the author’s message. Another word for it is content “filler” because it fills up space without saying anything new.


  • If the mission of this article is to answer the question “what is a fluff sentence,” then it is important to define the meaning of “fluff” fully and completely.

That sentence has 29 words that contribute absolutely nothing to this article — except serving as an example of a fluff sentence. Why is it so bad?

  1. You already know the subject of the article.
  2. Its claim is self-evident.
  3. The phrasing is awkward and bulky.
  4. “Fully” and “completely” mean the same thing.

Any one of these four points would make the sentence fluffy.

Why Readers Don’t Like Fluff

Think about what frustrates you when you’re reading a blog or researching a topic. Your readers don’t enjoy those things either. They want a smooth reading experience and clean, clear writing.

Fluff also delays answers. As much as 80% of online searches have “informational search intent.” In other words, many readers visit your website because they have questions. If you fail to answer them, they’ll go elsewhere.

Obvious fluff can even seem disrespectful, giving the impression that you care more about the length of the piece than its reader. Remember those students who played with the margins of a paper or inflated their word count with filler content? The teachers noticed, and they were a little insulted that the offenders thought they wouldn’t.

Why Search Engines Don’t Like Fluff

It turns out that Google doesn’t like fluff either, and unnecessary filler gets in the way of search engine optimization (SEO).

Many people believe that more is better when it comes to content. But streamlining descriptions and cutting fluff often has a positive effect on SEO.

In addition, Google considers bounce rate. When readers abandon your site, Google devalues your content. The search engine assumes that it’s fluffy even if it does have the right keywords.

How to Avoid Fluff in Writing

These seven tips lead to stronger writing with a minimum of useless filler. Put them into practice for dynamic, crisp writing that keeps readers engaged.

1. Avoid Filler Content 

Filler content includes words, phrases, or even entire sections of text that content writers add to lengthen the piece without bringing anything new to the story. Like the name suggests, it “fills” the gaps to occupy space in your writing without adding any substantive value. Redundant and unnecessarily complex sentences, clichés, and overly wordy explanations can all qualify as unnecessary filler. 

Before you add a sentence or paragraph, ask yourself if it enriches your article. Does this information teach the reader something new? Does it deepen their understanding of the topic at hand?

2. Stay On Topic 

This fluff writing tip may seem obvious to most, but it’s easy for content writers to accidentally stray from the original topic. Your piece should immediately establish its subject and fulfill any promises you made in the title. Once you’ve made your main point, stick to it. 

If you find yourself veering off course, it’s a good sign that at least some of the information might need to be reworked, moved to a different section, or even cut altogether. An outline can help you organize your points before you start writing and stay on track throughout the process. 

3. Be Precise

Meaningful content is precise, direct, and to the point. It uses concise language — think the opposite of fluffy. Steer clear of wordy sentences, confusing expressions, and unnecessary filler that don’t contribute to your message. 

Precise writing avoids fluff statements at all costs. What is a fluff statement? A fluff statement is a line that doesn’t develop the story, argument, or topic. Often, it’s a claim that is so broad or vague that it’s functionally meaningless.


  • Many people believe that content marketing is important.

Not exactly a bold argument. It’s fluff content that means little. Here are two ways to improve it:

  • Over 82% of marketers currently invest in content marketing, and that number continues to grow.
  • Unlike paid search ads, content marketing continues to pay off after the initial investment.

The first sentence locates and quantifies the “many people” who endorse content marketing. The second sentence takes ownership of the opinion and sets it up to expand in a particular direction.

4. Write For Your Target Audience 

For many content writers, fluff can come from one simple mistake: Not understanding the target audience. If you don’t know who you’re speaking to — or what they already know — you risk adding too much or too little. 

For example, if your topic is something that requires industry-specific knowledge, you don't want to waste your reader’s time by adding a filler paragraph explaining the basics of the topic. On the flip side, content that's too complex for your audience can also lead to unnecessary fluff.

If your audience is a select group of industry insiders, a highly technical white paper might be appropriate. When used correctly, jargon is precise vocabulary that acts as shorthand between fellow professionals. However, when misapplied in papers for general audiences or audiences who are new to a topic, jargon can become fluffy. Jargon may require explanation when a more common phrase would work just fine. 

Other times, jargon is a smokescreen for content that either doesn’t make sense or doesn’t say anything. For example,

  • As a writer, I employ syntax and diction to communicate.

“Syntax” and “diction” belong to literary or journalistic jargon. These words aren’t as obscure as the shorthand of some other professions. The bigger problem is that the sentence is empty. “Syntax” is a more elevated way of saying “sentence structure,” and diction means “word choice.”

Essentially, it means, “As a writer, I use sentences and words.” Most do.

So, how do you avoid this fluff writing pitfall? Audience profiling is a data-driven process that allows you to segment your ideal customer into different groups. The objective is to create more personalized content that speaks directly to those people — without the unnecessary fluff. 

5. Position Yourself Within a Conversation

Part of knowing your audience is knowing what they already know. What context do they need? What do they already have? How familiar or foreign is this material, and at what level are you engaging the subject?

In other words, don’t rehash the basics unless you need to.

Think of yourself as jumping into an ongoing conversation. Maybe you want to correct a popular misconception or dig into a subtopic. Maybe you’re pausing to provide an overview for newcomers to the conversation.

Whatever your aim, acknowledge the conversation and engage it as you develop your article. Your writing will be more focused and compelling as a result.

6. Trim the Fat and Avoid Fluff Words

Lean, strong writing requires you to prune your prose. Here are some common, fluffy culprits. Watch out for them in your work.

Passive Voice

In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is not the agent of action. Instead, the subject is the person or thing affected or achieved by the action.


  • Passive: “A Modest Proposal” was written in 1729 by Jonathan Swift.
  • Active: Jonathan Swift wrote, “A Modest Proposal” in 1729.

You can use the passive voice when you don’t know the agent or when you want to emphasize the recipient or outcome. You could also use it to emphasize a person’s lack of agency.

Otherwise, you should default to the active voice. It’s more efficient and dynamic. It also forces you to identify the agent of the action and assign clear responsibility.

Fluff Words 

Fluff words are a top contributor to imprecise and flabby writing. If you’re not careful, these common yet unnecessary words and phrases can sneak into your writing. 

Here are a few of the most commonly used fluff words to keep an eye out for: 

  • Actually
  • Anyways
  • Basically
  • Despite the fact that
  • During the course of
  • In order to 
  • In the event that 
  • In the near future 
  • Literally
  • Really
  • Somewhat
  • Truly
  • Very

Common Redundancies: Phrases and Lists

Many content writers are guilty of redundancy, or the unnecessary repetition of certain words, phrases, sentences, and even ideas. If you can remove it without the copy losing any significance, then it can be cut. Repetition can bore readers and make content confusing.

Redundant phrases happen when you add a modifier to another word that already implies the modifier as part of its definition. Grammarist maintains a growing list of common redundancies, including:

  • Actual fact
  • Added bonus
  • Close proximity
  • Combine together
  • Few in number
  • Final result
  • Free gift
  • Future plans
  • Mental attitude
  • Past/prior experience/history
  • Return back

Another common source of redundancy is lists of modifiers with similar meanings.


  • Each and every time I leave the house, I anxiously anticipate my return with dread and foreboding.

“Each” and “every” mean the same thing. “Anxiously,” “with dread,” and “with foreboding” are also similar. Instead, try:

  • Every time I leave the house, I dread my return.

Not only is this sentence stripped of repetition, but it also replaces modifiers with an evocative verb that contains them.

Prepositional Phrase Pileups

Your reader shouldn’t need a map to navigate your sentence. It’s possible to get so invested in precision that you overwhelm the reader with minutiae or unnecessary clarifications.

When editing after you write your first draft for your eyes alone, you may discover that fluff has infiltrated your writing despite your best intentions to limit wordy constructions in your prose.

Or… while editing, you may discover fluff.

Unnecessary Modifiers

Which leads to the next source of fluff. Modifiers — adjectives and adverbs — often pad sentences without enriching them. Adverbs are especially nefarious. In the words of Stephen King,

The road to hell is paved with adverbs.

There’s a place for adjectives and adverbs in your writing, but the impulse to use one sometimes indicates that you should choose a stronger verb or noun instead. At other times, they’re clutter — extra words you can cut.

For example, qualifiers are very rarely necessary. Qualifiers are words that enhance or limit another word. In this paragraph, “very” qualifies “rarely” and could be cut.

Introductory Phrases

You should get to the point in your sentence as well as in your larger piece. While transition words are necessary at some points, introductory phrases often add a preface that delays or even compromises your point.

Eliminate the sentence opener “It is…” It is interesting that the phrase “it is interesting that” adds nothing to a sentence.

7. Edit

Writing is hard. Writing well is harder. Writing perfectly is impossible.

Don’t let these tips get between you and your writing. An overcritical eye can paralyze a content writer, particularly in the early stages of the writing process.

Free yourself to make both discoveries and mistakes. You may find an unexpected angle or insight that takes the piece to the next level, or you might need to delete words, sentences, or paragraphs. That’s okay.

It’s much easier to fix fluff in writing than to completely avoid it from the outset. Edit your work, reading it aloud to help you identify wordy phrases.

No one ever has to know what the first draft looked like. That’s your business. They can mind their own.

Say More With Less Fluff Writing

Some things should be fluffy. Stuffed animals. Cotton candy. Summer clouds.

Your writing doesn’t make the list. Streamline your writing to create more effective copy. Start strong by diving right into your subject. After you get to the point, stay there. Develop your theme rather than going off on tangents.

Know your audience, their comfort level with jargon, and their familiarity with your topic. Remember to write to them and for them.

Once you’ve got a draft, edit. Then edit again. Look out for common signs of fluff writing, and cut or replace what you can.

Make your audience feel that you value their time. After all, if you want your audience to respect you and your authority or position, the best way to start is by respecting them.

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