On Writing "Well,"

I’ve been reading On Writing Well by William Zinsser. One of the early instructions he gives is to cut out filler words.

Well, I have a confession to make. I’m particularly guilty of one particular habit that I just can’t seem to shake.

I start a lot of sentences with “well,” and, well, it’s something I’ve been trying to cut down on.

Out of interest, I just ran the following search in my employer’s Slack:

from:@james Well,

The results were not pleasing. I don’t want to say how many times I’ve done it within Slack’s recent memory, but I didn’t dare venture past page 1 of 36.

Well, that just won’t do.

I don’t even know why I do it. It’s not a hedging word, designed to protect me from any criticism I might incur from taking a firm position, as it does nothing to minimise the strength of the statement that follows it. It’s just a noise I make, involuntarily, like um or ah.

It’s five characters (and a space) I can do without.

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