Writing
Comments 2

Oh, those Filtering Devices!

I’m still trudging through Rebecca McClanahan’s book, Word Painting. After traversing pages dealing with grammar, I am now learning that to write more descriptively, we must get rid of filtering devices. Such phrases as “he noticed” or “she felt” and “he noted” are called filtering devices. This stylistic tic, John Gardner says, drains the energy of the writer’s language.

These filtering devices clutter our sentences and act as barriers between the reader and the sensory images we want the reader to experience. Says McClanahan: “In most cases, stating the image directly is more effective than filtering it through the narrator’s , or a character’s consciousness.”

This paragraph contains filtering devices:

The boy eyed the  contents of his grandmother’s room, noticing the tiny figurines arranged in tiers on the mahogany shelf. He saw the bouquet of miniature irises, the ceramic Cinderella slipper, the glass horse with the painted blue eyes. He felt a sadness sweep through him like an autumn breeze.

This is how the paragraph reads when the filtering devices were removed:

The boy eyed the  contents of his grandmother’s room, the tiny figurines arranged in tiers on the mahogany shelf – the bouquet of miniature irises, the ceramic Cinderella slipper, the glass horse with the painted blue eyes. He felt a sadness sweep through him like an autumn breeze.

Big difference, indeed. Goodbye, filtering devices!

Photo credit: earl53  via Morguefile

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This entry was posted in: Writing

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Feature Writer from the Philippines

2 Comments

  1. Getting rid of those filtering devices is great, the writing so much cleaner and crisper. I’d suggest that the “He felt” also isn’t needed.

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