Zeroable, The “Z” in the AtoZChallenge

Zeroable, The “Z” in the AtoZChallenge

Zeroable words are able to be omitted from a sentence without any loss of meaning. They are sometimes called filler or slacker words and phrases.Ta da! Here we are, 30 days and 26 posts into the AtoZChallenge, and boy, are my arms tired. Or my fingers. Maybe my brain. I’ve never written so many blogs in a row, but the effort was worth it! I’ve read so many blogs from a wide variety of people, not one of them zeroable.

What’s zeroable? According to, zeroable is:

  • Able to be omitted from a sentence without any loss of meaning.

From a writer/editor point of view, I’ve known these as filler words, or slacker words. I have an enormous list of filler words I pull out when I’m in the editing/proofreading stage of my writing. Here are a few:

  • Very, really, quite, rather.  Is she very quiet? Or is she silent?
  • Up, down. As in sit down, sit up, stand up. Use sit and stand. Your reader knows the direction.
  • That. My favorite zeroable. If you can read the sentence without the “That”, and it makes sense, delete it. I have a friend in Hawaii who is a great friend of the word “that”, and I run through her manuscripts with a big, red pen, crossing them out.
  • As yet. We don’t know (as yet) if we’ll fly to Maui.
  • Totally, completely, literally. Eliminate these adverbs, and your content will (totally) read clean.
  • Each and every. I proofread my copy (Each and every) daily.
  • Pretty, just. You (just) need to eliminate these words. Your copy should read (pretty) clear.

Your content should be clear, concise, and uncluttered. Use the sentence without the filler word. If it makes sense, delete it.

Emotional zeroable words.

I’ve read a lot of emotional filler words during the AtoZChallenge. It’s okay, we all started writing bad prose at the beginning of our writing path. My first novel was full of passive voice and gerund phrases. “Julia was walking toward the front door.” Instead of “Julia walked toward the front door.” An entire book full.

In the last month, I’ve read a lot of “feeling” filter words such as:

  • To think. John thought about his problems with his mother. No. John experienced problems with his mother.
  • To wonder. John wondered about what lay on the other side of the basement door. No. John dreaded opening the basement door. Hundreds of horror movies shouted at him to not open it.
  • To watch. Jane watched as the minute hand of the clock inched toward twelve. Why not use—”The minute hand of the clock inched toward twelve. The hour of reckoning neared.”
  • To decide. Jane decided to run for her life. Instead say, Jane ran for her life.

Your characters do not need to see, think, decide, wonder, look, think, realize see, hear, or touch anything. They need to move, they need action. Don’t create a barrier between your characters and the reader. Don’t have Bill look tired and old. Talk about the wrinkles around his eyes, and how his hand shakes as he adjusts his hearing aid.

Filler words tell me about what’s taking place. The old adage, “Show, don’t tell” is never more important than in writing. Don’t tell me that your characters hear the shrieks of the living dead. Show me how they shuffle up the driveway, their tattered shoes scraping on the concrete.

Check your blog, your manuscript, your posts and tweets for any zeroable words and use your delete key.

After AtoZ

Today is my last AtoZChallenge blog. I’ve enjoyed writing 26 blogs in a row (okay, I cheated and banked a few, but only because I knew I faced a four-day babysitting gig last week). I’ve learned so much, met a ton of new people, and signed up for newsletters and blog updates. If you’ve visited my blog, thank you. If you’ve left a comment, double thank you. I hope to continue blogging more often than I did before AtoZ and bring quality content to my readers.

Next week, I’ll compile my AtoZ posts into an ebook and publish it on multiple formats. Then, it’s back to editing. My second book in my Enchanted series is complete but needs heavy editing. To be sure, I’ll be using my list to look for zeroable words.

Thanks to all who accompanied me on my AtoZ journey, and thanks to those who allowed me into their lives.

Blessings to you,



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10 Responses to Zeroable, The “Z” in the AtoZChallenge

  1. After reading your posts, I have realised that I have been using these words so many times in my posts. All thanks to you , I will improve my writing.

  2. This is a very useful post… man, I have missed this series of yours. Will be back to check it all out.

    Principal Mo Zhengao was a Truly Selfless Hero

  3. admin says:

    Thank you. I’ve tried to give the useful advice I wished I would have received when I first started writing.

  4. Tina Basu says:

    Cheryl I have become a fan of yours, I couldn’t read up on last few days but the first thing I did today was to subscribe to your blog. Very very nice posts throughout the month.
    Congratulations on completing the competition on a high
    Twinkling Tina Cooks

  5. admin says:

    Tina, thank you. It means a lot, coming from you, who runs more than one blog so well (and makes delicious recipes, too).

  6. Debbie D. says:

    You offer excellent advice, here. Congratulations on completing the A to Z challenge successfully!

  7. JazzFeathers says:

    Congratulations of finshing the challenge! It is a challenge, isn’t it? But it’s also so rewarding.
    I really enjoyed this last post. I had to learn myself not to use gerund and passive voice. Why is it that those come natural to us when we write? I think the best way to avoid them is being aware of them. I never thought passive voice (or adverbs for that matter) were a problem until on a workshop people started to point them out to me.
    It’s always a journey, isn’t it? We learn costantly. and that’s exciting 😉

  8. admin says:

    Self-awareness is the 1st step. It’s like not being aware of using um, er, etc when we speak. Once we hear ourselves, we work harder at eliminating them. Thanks for commenting!

  9. this is a great word!!! and worth thinking about in everything in life 😉 good luck with the books! see you :0

  10. Amrita says:

    Filler words are really useless calorie type thing.What you wrote made a lot of sense.Thank you for a great A to Z series of posts.Do let me know how you plan to do the multiple ebook format thing.

Comments are closed.