While editing my story's first draft, I read a blog about filtering words. When it came to editing, I realised it's not that easy to remove those words when you are editing an action after a dialogue, complexity piles when it is in the first POV.

“Yes,” I said, I looked around a little, and held my left arm with my right hand, diary in hand. “Sorry for what happened back there, I didn’t mean to— ”

“It’s quite alright. No need to say sorry.” He looked straight ahead.

Does one has to remove filter words in dialogue action or you let them be? Is there any better way to understand how to edit these sentence?

PS I have already read this post

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    That the one person looks around and the other looks straight ahead (instead of meeting the other person's gaze, I assume) are not filtering but descriptions of character actions. They don't seem redundant to me. There are no filter words in your passage.
    – user49354
    Apr 2, 2021 at 16:45
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    Off topid but - idk if you can make 'he looked straight ahead' a dialogue tag. Shouldn't there be a period after "No need to say sorry'? Like: "It's quite alright. No need to say sorry." He looked straight ahead. Great question btw
    – Tasch
    Apr 2, 2021 at 20:55
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    @Tasch You're right. Those phrases aren't dialogue tags, and should be separate sentences. Apr 2, 2021 at 21:05
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    I edited the question: I meant the action we use after dialogues to avoid the overuse of dialogue tag. They have filter words too, right?
    – Momobear
    Apr 3, 2021 at 4:59
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    @TobySpeight I've heard 'filter words' used to mean words like saw / noticed / realised, where an experience is being 'filtered' through the character's perspective. So 'Alex saw two birds fly past the window', instead of 'Two birds flew past the window'. Apr 5, 2021 at 14:33

1 Answer 1


As others have pointed out, your excerpt doesn't contain any filter words. Since you highlighted "looked", I'm assuming you're worried about the sense filters: see, hear, smell, etc. They're called "filter words" because they filter the reader's experience through the writing rather than allow them to experience the scene themselves. Sometimes, this distancing effect may be desired. A lot of the time, it's not.

You're right that "look" can be a filter word (e.g. "he looked scared"), though in your example, you're using it as an action (to look somewhere). But the point of warning against filter words is not that the words themselves are forbidden and need to be eradicated from your writing, but that they signify writing that could (not must) be rewritten to give more a more immediate description of the scene to the reader.

Try searching for "writing filter words" for some excellent blog posts explaining this in more detail.

  • I read some blogs, notable ones like masterclass, but I guess I am so clear in identifying them, or where/how to use them, and how to remove them.
    – Momobear
    Apr 7, 2021 at 11:02

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