In honor of editing lots of fluffy articles last week, I’d like to offer a few questions to you readers and writers out there. What is fluff? How do you know when you’re reading/writing fluff? Why is it generally a bad thing?
Dictionary.com defines fluff as 1. any light downy substance or 2. an object, matter, etc. of little importance; trifle.Unless you’ve ripped up the book or paper containing the trivial language, we’re not talking about the first. We’re talking about the second.
Fluff is tricky. Is what you’re writing/reading substantive? Or does it just sound pretty? Does it have meat?
Here is an example of fluff:
“Have you ever found yourself wondering where to go to take care of a nagging cough, get involved in volunteering, talk to someone who knows about your struggles, or get involved in ministry or leadership? Random College has many resources that students may utilize to accomplish all of these things and more!”
Is this important? The subject might be, and it does further the purpose of this particular article. But does it have substance? Not really. Is it trivial? Oh yes. Fiction writing can look like this as well: the way people, places, and surroundings are described can be fluffy, dialogue, and even the story itself. When I think of fluffy fiction writing, I think of “drama queen” writing. Super dramatic writing is annoying to read.
Like I said, fluff is tricky and not always easy to point out. It’s even more difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes something fluffy. Try asking these questions the next time you’re writing something: 1.) Is the sentence trivial? 2.) Does it add anything to what your saying? 3.) Does it have substance? 4.) What purpose is the sentence serving?
The last question is an interesting one because fluff can be useful when used in the right amount and in the right place. It can be entertaining and can allow for a break in an otherwise tough article or story. But be careful. With great fluff comes great responsibility.