Eliminate Filler Words

Having and using good vocabulary sets you apart from others. In a job interview, seeking a promotion, networking, or trying to make a sale, the words we use have an impact on the listener. Filler words are a verbal place holder that indicates to the listeners that you are not done speaking. Use these words too often and you lose credibility as a speaker and people stop listening.

We all use filler words. These are words include: um, like, so, er, ah… we use them to fill the silence, out of habit, or to signal that we are not done speaking. For the past twenty years, when people learn I am Canadian they say “so you’re from Canada eh?” To which I retort and say, “you’re American, huh?”  

3 Ways to eliminate filler words:

1.            Get comfortable with silence

Allowing silence adds emphasis. Instead of using filler words, pauses, allow silence and it will allow you to appear more confident, more relaxed.

2.            Record yourself.

Record ourselves on your phone.  Practice a presentation and listen to yourself. The first time I was on the radio, I was mortified with what I heard myself say. I realized that the overuse of filler words made me sound unsure of my message.

Recently I had this discussion with some college freshmen who started a podcast. I encouraged them to listen to themselves and report back at what they heard. It was a revelation to them to realize the words they used and the frequency of the words. They took this one step further and started counting the number of fillers used by their professors. They noticed a couple of things, first that the professors used the words too often and that they stopped listening and spent more time counting the filler words.

3.            Make a list of your filler words

When you are aware of the words you use, you will hear yourself say them. Put your list on your phone, on your computer monitor, somewhere where you will see it all that time

I worked with a professional who replaced filler words with the word ‘fantastic’ which became her filler word. Be very careful with substitutions.

Becoming aware of the words is the first step to eliminating them. We all need reminders and continually working to eliminate filler words from our speech will help build your credibility and allow your words to have a positive impact on the listeners.

By: Cheryl Viola, MBA, Executive Director


Guarino, J. (2020, April 6). 10 ways to eliminate filler words. Retrieved from https://www.instituteofpublicspeaking.com/10-ways-to-eliminate-filler-words/

How to Stop Saying “UM”. (2019, May 30). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W995352_kkw

Rezvani, S., & Hedges, K. (2014, December 17). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2014/12/17/four-ways-to-stop-saying-um-and-other-filler-words/?sh=266002fe2515

Thompson, S. (2017, April 29). How to stop using filler words in 3 steps. Retrieved from https://virtualspeech.com/blog/how-to-stop-using-filler-words-3-steps