Learn How to Stop Using Filler Words!

The majority of individuals tend to use filler words. The use of filler words sounds unprofessional and decreases a speakers’ credibility. In an International Business Times article, “Why Do Americans Use Filler Words,” an ECG Management Consultant states, ‘Fillers distract. They drown your message. They impair your delivery by diminishing your ability to align pacing, pauses and vocal variation to content. They make you seem uncertain, unprepared and unknowledgeable. They make up time and add no value.’

You are not alone; everyone uses filler words! The International Business Times article highlights that Ronald Reagan, Caroline Kennedy, Barack Obama are just a few examples of public figures that excessively use filler words. Next time you listen to an interview or press conference by Barack Obama, count how many times he says “you know.”

The best way to go about reducing filler words is to find effective ways to train yourself to stop using them. In a Forbes article, “Four Ways to Stop Saying ‘Um’ And Other Filler Words,” four techniques to help reduce the use of filler words are: hear yourself using filler words, chunk your information, make eye contact, and pre-plan your transitions.

  1. First, hearing yourself using filler words by listening to a recording will force you to acknowledge your use of filler words. Once you begin to pay attention to filler words, you will cringe every time you use one.
  2. Second, chunking your information will allow you to organize exactly what you are going to say and know when you are going to end each point or sentence. Chunking your information entails separating the different ideas you want to address and organizing what you want to talk about for each idea so that you know when your point is coming to an end. Presentation trainer Olivia Mitchell says, “When you chunk, you get into a rhythm: burst of words/ break/ burst of words/ break… Focus on that rhythm and your um’s will go.”
  3. Third, when you have direct eye contact and are fully engaged in a conversation with another person, the use of filler words feels more awkward. So, not only is it important to have eye contact with whomever you talking to, but when you have direct eye contact, you tend to use less filler words.
  4. Last, preplanning your transitions will allow you to use a transition word or phrase in between ideas instead of filler words. Always have some transition words or phrases ready to go! Some examples could be, “Now, let’s move on to…” or “Another important aspect…” As you implement these transitions, they will become more natural, and the filler words will go away.

Unfortunately, filler words have become a natural part of our speech pattern. Hopefully these tips will help to reduce or even eliminate your use of filler words. Practice makes perfect, so practice speaking without using filler words.

By Tara Watrous
Tara Watrous Career Intern