Filler words are conversation killers, plain and simple.
If you’re trying to leave a good impression and you use filler words frequently, it’s going to hurt your cause significantly.
You know exactly what this is like because we all come across people who are guilty of this on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter if it’s your friend, boss, or teacher. You can’t help but notice when someone abuses filler words (and you probably wish they would stop).
We’re all victims of sloppy enunciation at one point or another. Nerves often exaggerate one’s tendency to use filler words especially during times of high stress and uncertainty.
But have these fillers become a normal part of our society’s dialect? Is everyone just always nervous? Or are we just not aware of what comes out of our mouth?
No matter what it is, slowly eliminating your usage of filler words will not only make you sound smarter, but it’ll also make you more conscious of what it is that you’re actually saying.
Even if you’ve done a lot of work on your online reputation and have gotten an interview or job (congrats!) this is something you’ll want to get a handle on. You might not even know you’re doing it, so take a look below with an open mind.
So What Are Filler Words?
You can most easily identify a filler word if it’s a part of speech that is commonly said by word of mouth and almost never written. They’re often irrelevant transitory words used to give yourself more time to find the right word you’re looking for, gather your complete thought or idea, and finally finish your sentence.
To make things easier, here’s a filler words list we compiled of these meaningless jargon words in no particular order:
I, like, really think I’d do good work at this job you know? –Unhired Job Applicant
“I think the president made a stern speech about the war in Iraq, but like I don’t think the troops are going to be withdrawn as quickly as hoped.”
Think of how much better the sentence would sound by simply taking this out. “Like” is one of the most used on our filler words list and we should all do our part to put it to rest!
“I find myself leading towards the writing of Robert Frost his um cadence is um engaging.”
When reading this sentence out loud, one would assume that the two “ums” in the part of speech were used to give the speaker time to think of the exact adjectives he or she wanted to use to describe the works of Robert Frost. In situations like this-silence is golden. If you need extra time to think of a word that’s at the tip of your tongue, pause, take a short breath, think, and move on.
3. I Mean
Q: “If your house was on fire and your laptop was inside, would you run in and get it?”
A: “I mean, maybe not my laptop but my external hard drive.”
“I Mean” is commonly blurted out at the beginning of a thought which indicates that it’s your opinion. But when you’re having a conversation unless stated otherwise, everything you say is your opinion. This is one of those filler words that has done an effective job of infiltrating our language. It’s done it so well in fact, that sometimes people forget that this is not the correct way to use it. If you catch yourself saying this, scrap it from your go-to ways of starting a sentence.
4. You Know?
“It’s not every day that you get to skydive, you know?”
Yeah, we know. Unless you’re a skydiving instructor.
5. Like I Said
“Like I said before, the engineering department will see some new employees sometime next week.”
At first, this might seem like it doesn’t belong on our filler words list, but hear us out. Repetition can be engaging if done correctly. If you’ve said something earlier in the conversation or presentation the audience will catch on to it without you telling them they’ve already heard it. Instead, try to attach additional information to continue the idea to keep the audience interested. Most of the time filler words don’t add anything new of value to the conversation, and this one is a great example of that.
6. OK, so…
“Ok, so what you’re saying is that Florida orange juice is not from concentrate?”
Instead: Florida orange juice is not from concentrate? I need to change my morning pick me up brand!
This is often thrown into the beginning of a statement or sentence when it doesn’t need to be. In the context of an interview or leaving the first impression, it can come off as annoying or unsure.
This filler word is most often abused while someone else is talking. It comes from a good place (wanting to seem engaged), but it’s just distracting. If you have the habit of saying this over and over while someone else is speaking, scrap it!
9. Tell me something
This little phrase is rarely necessary to the statement it occupies. It is often perceived as an overly dramatic lead-in to a sentence. This is something you definitely don’t want someone thinking about you.
This filler word was made fun of to the point where it’s original use is not nearly as common anymore. These days it’s typically used as a point of agreement when someone else is speaking. There are situations where it’s a completely fine word to use in that situation, but don’t go overboard.
This is a similar filler word to “you know” in that it’s often used at the end of a sentence with no real purpose.
12. You see
People commonly throw “you see” at the beginning of a sentence when it really doesn’t need to be there. They will see when you tell them, there’s no need to proclaim it first.
13. By the way
This is one of those sentence fillers that can work in some situations but fail in others. If you’re using this multiple times in the same conversations it’s likely time to change this.
Just like “totally” you want to keep these to a minimum. If the person you’re talking to makes a great point you agree with then go for it. If you are just repeating it endlessly to make them think you love what they’re saying it will just come off as tiresome.
15. I just…
“I just wanted” and “I just thought” are overly used in conversations and emails all the time. Scrap the “just” and everything will be a lot more assertive and straightforward for the other person. This is another one that plays well in a job interview.
While this might not seem like that big of a deal, it’s a filler word that apparently annoys a lot of people if you use it while they are talking. Keep an eye on your use of this!
Let’s be honest, saying “hmmm” out loud is kind of odd. Replace it with any normal phrase (“Let me think” “I’m not sure) leave a much better impression. It’s fine to not know something, just don’t say “hmmm” while you do it!
18. So basically…
Kicking off a sentence with this is unnecessary in most situations if you rely on it too heavily. Keep this in your back pocket for the situations that make the most sense, and don’t rely on this sentence filler as your default lead-in.
19. No way
If the person who is speaking tells you something mind-blowing, “no way” fits perfectly. If that’s not the case try to refrain from using it. These days it’s often thrown in as a response to relatively mundane topics of discussion, and it comes off as uninterested.
We all know those people who include literally in literally every sentence. Pretty tedious right? Use it for it’s actual purpose and you will be doing the world a service.
21. I mean
This has become a very common sentence lead-in over the last few years. If you want to throw it around with your friends that’s totally fine, just don’t bring it into an interview!
Ever see a kid trying to show their parent something uninteresting? What is one of the most common responses the parent gives in order to get them off of their back? We rest our case.
23. Or something like that
Ending a sentence with these filler words in an hiring situation is not the way to go. It just shows that you ran out of points or didn’t care enough to put a bow on what you were talking about.
24. Got it
The issue with this is sometimes it can be completely fine as a response when someone has finished making a point. However, if they have more they want to say and you say it too often it comes off like you’re trying to get them to wrap it up.
Similar to “wow” in the sense that it’s just an unengaged response and one of the most overused filler words on this list.
How To Fix Your Bad Habit
Completely removing everything from our filler words list all at once is probably not very realistic. At first it may take some work, especially since the way you speak isn’t corrected every time you say an “uh”, “like” or “you know?”. One of the biggest issues is that people don’t hear themselves when they talk. It’d be a good idea to record yourself. It might be a bit embarrassing (and shocking) at first, but completely worth it.
By watching a recording of yourself, you have the opportunity to find out the exact filler words you use much too often. You may even pick up on things you want to work on like your tone of voice and facial expressions.
This way, you know the exact filler words you use much too often and may even pick up on things you may want to work on with tone of voice and facial expressions. Just remember that everyone’s speaking style is different and your personality shouldn’t have to be altered to adjust to the “right” way of speaking.
Silence Is Golden
Now that you’ve gone through the filler words list and have an idea of the most frequent offenders, it’s time to start making better use of that sentence real estate. Start with becoming familiar with some transitory words that can save you in times of great speech peril. These include “first”, “next”, “lastly”, “and”, etc.
When we become excited to say something important, funny, or exciting we often don’t think about how what we’re going to say will sound. Take time to gather your thoughts and ideas. Don’t worry, your audience wants to hear what you have to say and your friends won’t run away for taking an extra second to take a breath. They’ll stick around and will be able to hear how clever you are once you get rid of all those filler words.
Ask For Help
When making any changes in daily life, it’s great to have a support system. Ask friends, co-workers, or family to pick up on any filler words that you use. Every filler word spoken gives you the opportunity to become aware that you say it, and to try even harder to avoid it. Once you become conscious of the words, you can stop them in your head and avoid them from coming out of your mouth.
Take A Breather
Employers, friends, and family will never call you out for taking a moment to breathe. This can prevent you for blabbing and giving out personal or too much information. Interviewers especially hear several interviewees in a day and they like to be impressed with the quality of the content, not quantity. You don’t want to talk their ear off.
What kind of vocabulary are you comfortable using? Just like how you want to avoid using anything from our filler words list, you also want to make sure you don’t go too far the other way for the wrong reasons. Avoid using big words just to impress them, especially if you’re not entirely sure of the definitions or how to use them correctly.
Instead of whipping out those SAT words that you barely remember, focus on getting to your point in a way that is clear and to the point.
When it comes to your pace and cadence, it’s better to pause and reflect than to rush through what you’re trying to say in hopes of getting the interview over and done with ASAP. Slow down, consider the questions – but also, make sure that the interviewer’s eyes don’t glaze over during a 2 minute “reflection pause”.
It may take some time, but with a little practice you’ll sound like the professional, accomplished and composed person that you are. If you have any more that you’d like to add to this filler words list, or any other ways that you’ve helped yourself stop saying them, like, leave a comment!