It’s a good thing that, when we write, we get to edit our work. We get to write beautiful sentences that flow perfectly and make us look really eloquent. We all have the best words when we write. But most of us talk a bit differently. It’s not so easy to create a perfectly worded sentence when we’re speaking to someone. Having the time to think about and revisit our words is a given when we write. When speaking, it’s a luxury we don’t always have.
What we do have when speaking are filler words. The ums, the likes, the you knows, the I means, and a whole lot of other words and sounds we use to fill what would otherwise be empty space. And it’s a good thing we have them, too.
Filler Words—What Are They, Like, Good For?
Filler words are words (or sounds) we use to fill the little pauses in our speech while we decide what we’re going to say next. These words have practically no informational value. If you removed all the filler words from your speech, you would lose nothing. But they still perform a function in speech. They allow us to take a pause to think about what we’re going to say next. And that’s kind of important because otherwise people might think that we’ve finished speaking.
The best proof of the usefulness of filler words is the fact that you have them in a lot of languages, maybe even in all of them. In Russian, filler words are called слова-паразиты, which means parasite-words. In Serbian, they are called poštapalice, which can be translated as crutch-words.
So It’s Okay To, You Know, Use Filler Words?
While filler words are a perfectly acceptable way to give yourself some time to think while speaking, you can overuse them. How much is too much depends on the situation. During public speaking, using any filler words might work against you. At least, that’s what some would argue. If you’re young and you’re talking with someone who is your age, chances are you’ll sync your filler word usage no matter how often you use them, and you’ll be just fine.
But when you get to the point where you can’t finish a single sentence without a couple of filler words, you’re doing it too much. Using too many filler words can be very disruptive. People may have trouble following what you’re talking about. Filler words are definitely OK, but too many of them will cause you problems.
How To Reduce the Use of Filler Words
When are we more likely to use filler words? When we’re contemplating something deeply but still need to talk, filler words can buy time. They can also help when we start to talk before we actually know what we’re going to say, or when we’re talking too fast for our own thoughts. They can also signal to another person that we haven’t finished speaking yet.
It seems that being prepared, taking our time, and being confident are all we need to get our filler words under control. Not the easiest things, right? We can’t always be prepared for what we’re about to say. We sometimes have to answer questions that require us to think. We need to organize our thoughts into sentences. We need to recall memories. We need to process.
So. Slow. Down. Don’t jump into a sentence without knowing what you want to say. Resist the urge to start talking as soon as the other person stops. And when you do start talking, don’t try to break the world record for speaking the most words in a minute (637 words per minute, by the way). Give yourself the time to think while you’re speaking. Confidence helps you resist the pressure that might cause you to feel anxious and use more filler words. Being confident in what you’re saying also helps. But most importantly, be relaxed, even when you slip up and use a filler word. They are really OK, you know, if you only use them occasionally.
from Grammarly Blog