How to Recognize Filler Words

Do you find yourself using “like,” “um,” “ah,” “so,” and other words in your conversations and writing? Then you’re not alone!

These filler words, also known as discourse markers, are the words or noises used to fill the blank spaces of communication. While common, they don’t usually add substance to the message and can be offputting in a professional setting.

However, with some practice, you’ll be able to recognize these words and improve your communication skills!

Why Do We Use Them?

Filler words are part of the hesitation phenomena in communication- specifically, the filled silences between chunks of information.

When used correctly, they give you time to organize your thoughts and find the right word to use, or they can strengthen (or weaken) the effect of a statement. Some filler words, such as “right” or “you know,” can encourage participation and feedback.

In casual conversation, these words can be a common and natural way to build connections between speakers.

However, in a professional setting, filler words can harm your communication skill when used in excess. They can make your ideas hard to follow, make you sound unorganized or uninformed, and imply nervousness.

And, when you’re trying to communicate a message or get an idea into the minds of others, you want to use as few fillers as possible.

Common Filler Words in Speech

Here is a list of common words, noises, and phrases used as fillers in English-speaking conversations.

  • Um
  • Ah
  • So
  • Like
  • Uh
  • Oh
  • Er
  • You Know
  • Maybe
  • Totally
  • Literally
  • Basically
  • Okay
  • As If
  • I mean
  • Right
  • Well
  • I Guess
  • Listen
  • Oof
  • Yeah

Common Filler Words in Writing

Writers also use filler words, though it isn’t quite as noticeable as the spoken versions. However, the same rules apply- when writing, try not to use these words unless they’re integral to the story or dialogue.

Here are some examples:

  • Just
  • Basically
  • Seriously
  • Very
  • So
  • Really
  • Needless to Say
  • At the End of the Day
  • For What It’s Worth
  • Highly
  • Something Like

How to Stop Using Them

So how can you stop using fillers and communicate more effectively?

For starters, you can slow down. These words appear when our thoughts are faster than our mouths, so slowing down when speaking will give you more time to process your thoughts and communicate them correctly.

Next, learn how to embrace the pause. Not every silence needs a sound, and it’s okay to let the silence linger while waiting for a response or preparing your next bit of information.

Finally, know yourself. Which filler words do you use most frequently? When you identify them, you can consciously choose different words when speaking- or eliminate them altogether!

Filler words are everywhere, and there’s no shame in using them when appropriate. However, by reducing these words in your communication, you can get your message across easier, be more eloquent and engaging, and expand your vocabulary like never before!

So, how many filler words can you find in this article? Let me know in the comments!

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