We've deleted an article's worth of unhelpful words

We've improved several pages across our site by removing words that add no value, and often detract from the article.

We have removed around 600 words from across our articles that served no purpose. Indeed they detracted from the point of the articles they were removed from.

600 words could easily be a solid article, especially if the writing is kept tight!

In no particular order, here are some of the words we removed;

  • basically
  • essentially
  • probably
  • possibly
  • hacks
  • you need to
  • trivial
  • obviously

In almost all cases the rest of the sentence didn’t need to change at all, and whilst it isn’t fair to say all instances of these words have been removed from the site, a fair few have and will continue to over the coming weeks.

Why we removed these words

Words like ‘basically’ and ‘obviously’ are problematic, they infer that the reader gets something that they may not. It is up to me, the writer, to help them understand what I’m writing, not assume a level of knowledge.

Most of the other words are filler. We write a lot of technical tutorials that have step-by-step parts of them. Changing “You need to click this button” to “Click this button” halves the word count of that sentence without changing anything about it.

Why we edit old articles

Almost all of our over 600 articles are visited at least once every two months, some articles get thousands of visits a month. We can’t predict when an old article is going to get linked and suddenly get viewed by a lot of people.

With all that in mind, it isn’t good enough to just apply improvements to new articles, we always take care to update wording and links across all of our articles when we can.

I love the idea that a 15-year-old article has been providing value to someone all this time, and to think it has had a small improvement to mean for the next 15 years someone will get to the value that little bit quicker. Great stuff!

Want to get in on this?

Do a quick search of your articles for some of these terms, have a think about how the sentence would read without that term, and if you agree it is better, delete.

When I started this process, I had two words on my list, but as I was visiting articles I was noticing more and more phrases that served little purpose. I’m sure you will find the same.


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