Delete glue words to unstick your sentences

‘Glue’ words, or ‘sticky’ words, are little words that hold together ‘working’ words — the words that carry the meaning of a sentence. For example, in the following sentence, the words in bold are all glue words.

The girls went to the forest to collect some pine cones.

Delete the glue words from this sentence and you can still understand it. The remaining words clearly describe what’s happening and who’s involved.

Glue words can bog down your reader

Glue words are essential, but it’s easy to use too many. For example, here’s a sentence with more glue words than working words:

The girls are going to make a call to their mother in the event that the girls should get lost. (12 glue words to 8 working words)

Sentences with minimal glue words are more concise and convey their meaning quickly.

The girls will call their mother if they get lost. (4 glue words to 6 working words)

Delete, delete, delete

Minimising glue words may require re-writing, but sometimes you can simply delete extra words. For example, you can delete the words in bold below without changing meaning.

I got off of the bus and met up with my friend.
She was outside of our favourite café, so we went on in and sat right down.
To save on time, we cut out the small talk and got straight down to the gossip.
We covered off a lot before calling the waiter over and dividing up the bill.
Before heading off home, we agreed that I would call her up next week.

Image, two women gossiping in a cafe.

We got to the gossip. Image by Georges De Valkeneer / CC BY

Next time you write something, look at the glue words in your sentences. Have you used more than you need?

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