Snark Bites: Filtering Words

In fiction, the objective of storytelling is to provide such a deep point of view that the barriers between the character and the reader vanish. The reader should feel as they they are the character.

Filter words stand between this magical immersion by creating degrees of separation or a perceivable layer in identity.

Filter words are those terms that lead to telling rather than showing. They do so by:

  • Dictating emotions.
  • Recapping for readers
  • Telling the reader what to think.

The following are examples of filter words:

  • Understood
  • Thought
  • Knew
  • Felt
  • Saw
  • Heard
  • Smelled
  • Told
  • Started to
  • Began to
  • Perceived
  • Recognized
  • Began to
  • Seemed

The following is an example of a filter word in use: “Joe saw the red chair.”

Better: “The red chair’s broken leg jutted out at an angle that made it dangerous to an unaware passersby.”


This is a recap and slight expansion of a post from the original Snarkology.

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