What are Filler Words in Speech – How to Stop Using Them

Have you ever heard of filler words before? Perhaps you have, but even if you haven’t heard of them, I am almost certain that you have unknowingly used them. Have any ideas? None? Okay! I will give you some hints before we continue. Don’t worry, I’m about to go into detail here, and even give you a filler words list. So, be patient. First, though, I want you to think of the word “filler” and what it means. For me, my mind immediately goes to lip injections, and the filler used to plump and beautify your lips. For those who may not know, lip filler is basically just fat that is used to make something that’s small, larger. Understand? Okay, so here is your hint; the same goes for filler words in a sentence. Have a better idea now? Let’s keep moving!

What are filler words?

So now that I have given you this hint, what are filler words? We’re you able to take a good guess? Let’s see if you’re right. Filler words are short, utterly meaningless words that we use to fill in the pauses in our speech… especially when we don’t know what we are going to say next, or when we have to think about something. These words don’t mean anything, yes, but they are not useless.

In fact, I’m not quite sure where I stand in regards to the usage of these words. On one hand, yeah, they can clutter up your speech and make a whole mess out of what you have to say. However, on the other hand, filler words give you a second to think about what you are going to say, and sometimes even act as a signal that to others that you’re not finished speaking yet.

List of filler words in English

Okay, so as promised, here’s a list of filler words. Now, this is not a list to encourage the use of these words. In fact, I’m trying to teach you how to stop using filler words. So, think of this list as purely informative.

Well, ok, so, like…

  • These filler words are most common, especially for spoken English. I’m sure you have heard these before in conversation, or even in movies or TV shows, so these may be easier to spot for you.

Basically, just, very, really…

  • These filler words may be more complicated to spot. In fact, you might not even recognize these when they are used. These are common filler words that are mainly used in writing. So, it may be more common for you to see these in books, articles, and blog posts such as this.

Needless to say…

  • Okay, believe it or not, this is such a common filler phrase. Not necessarily a filler word, but a phrase. To be honest, what does this even mean? If it’s needless to say, then why do we say it? It’s definitely unnecessary, but yet, very common.

Why do people use filler words?

We now know what filler words are, but why do we use them? Filler words, in speech, are actually used for multiple reasons. So, let’s take a look and see just why people use these filler words in English. Hint: The filler words are in bold print.

To emphasize their point

I bet this was not one that you would have guessed, right? Honestly, I forgot that we do this in English, too. Filler words are used to emphasize a point.

EXAMPLE:

  • Actually….. we got married!
  • In the above example sentence, the filler word “actually” is used to emphasize the fact that the couple was married!

They are thinking

This is the most common reason for the usage of filler words, in my personal opinion. However, it may be a close tie with the next resin we will go over as well. Let’s see what you think later. When we think about something, we pause, right? When we pause, it may be awkward to just stand there, mid conversation, and think in silence, so we use filler words to let the other person know we’re not done talking yet.

EXAMPLE:

  • Can we go to, um, what was the name of that place again? Oh, right! Can we go the Piedmont Park this weekend?
  • In the above example sentence, the filler word “um” is used to show that the speaker is thinking and trying to remember what he/she should say.

To make their speech more friendly and casual

Okay, this one may take you by surprise, but honestly, it’s true! Have you ever heard of a valley girl accent? People with these accents typically use a large amount of English filler words in their day to day vocabulary. Why? Well, they want their speech to sound cooler, more hip, and not so formal.

EXAMPLE:

  • Oh, it’s like not a big deal. Just like, don’t say anything because we are basically like siblings.
  • Yikes. That sentence was probably as hard for you to read as it was for me to write, but you have to keep in mind, this is mainly spoken, not written. So, it may look and sound messy when being read, but in day to day conversation, it’s very common and typical. However, I will admit, the valley girl accent, as examples above, does require the usage of way too many filler words. In my opinion, it’s messy, and I would not recommend adopting this accent.

It’s a habit

Seeing how the usage of filler words has doubled, if not tripled in the past 30 years alone, it is safe to say now that some people use filler words just out of a source of habit. I do this too. I was born in the early 90’s and I’m the youngest. I have 6 older siblings. I was taught this filler words my whole life, so, it’s sometimes hard to avoid using them. It’s a force of habit.

EXAMPLE:

  • So, please don’t judge me because I use too many filler words. I mean, I’m still learning how to avoid using filler words.
  • The above sentence is my genuine thought for you. You see, it’s still a habit to me, as I was born and raised using these filler words. It’s a habit that is almost impossible to break. Although, you can always try to train yourself!

Why it’s better to cut filler words from your speech

For obvious reasons, it’s better to cut filler words mainly because they can get messy. Use too many of them, and suddenly, you sound like uneducated, immature, or naive. Using filler words can be tricky like that. They are almost impossible to avoid, yet, if you use them too much, or too often, people will begin to notice and most likely think less of you. So, it is best to try to train or limit your speech to just a few filler words.

When it’s a bad habit: how to avoid using filler words

Let me start by telling you that if you already have a bad habit of using filler words, this is not going to be easy. However, learning how to avoid the use of filler words will be extremely beneficial for you. If you do not think you have a bad habit yet, still proceed to heed my advice here because just like a crazed coffee addiction, this bad habit can sneak up on you fast.

Think before you speak

It’s pretty ironic that I’m giving you this tip right now because I’m actually not that great at thinking before I speak. I’m also not naive enough to think that this isn’t important though. This is extremely important when trying to avoid the use of filler words, which is why it’s number on on my list. It’s funny because this is something I have worked on my whole life, and it’s still so hard for me to think before I speak. You must train your mind, so be patient with yourself.

Speak slower and shorter

Short and sweet. That’s the key! Also, the slower you speak, the easier it is for your brain to process what you want to say, and the less filler words you use because, well, your’e not having to think so quick on your feet about what you’re saying. So, having less to say, or as my father would say, “getting straight to the point”, and not rushing your speech, will actually help you a lot when wanting to avoid filler words.

Listen to yourself

I’ve always said that a great way to track your progress, and really improve your speech, is by recording yourself. I know, it’s strange, but it works. If you can record a conversation you have, play it back, and listen in to see how many filler words you use, and where you typically use them, you will be more conscious the next time you speak. Trust me, it’s always awkward at first, but it’s extremely beneficial! Your mind becomes more subconscious of the words you want to avoid whenever you actually hear your mistakes. So, the famous saying “leave from your mistakes” is true even in this sense, too!

All in all, we went over a lot in this post today, now didn’t we? But, if there’s one thing I would like for you to learn from this, it’s that filler words are not bad. They are not your enemy, they are actually useful at times. However, you just need to know when to use them, and how to use them properly. Now, if you made it this far in the post, you should know all you need to know. You’re already one step in the right direction. Congratulations!

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Yenifer Torres
Yenifer Torres
1 year ago

I try to speak in English as fast as I speak in my native language and I use a lot of filler words. Thanks teacher Tiffani. I’ll be aware next time.

Amaury dos santos
Amaury dos santos
11 months ago

Preciso aprender inglês mas tenho pouco tempo

momodou
momodou
11 months ago

thank you madam tiffani. filler words the topic is interesting indeed and people do always misuse it.

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