Have you ever used, like, words to, um, fill space when you’re talking?
If so, you’re using filler words. These are very common in speech, and they’re not inherently a bad thing. Still, they can affect the delivery of your speech and how your audience receives your message.
If you notice you’re using words and sounds like these while you think of the next thing you’re going to say, it might be time to practice eliminating these.
Still, it’s easier said than done. Our guide on will cover what they are and specific filler word examples, as well as strategies to improve your filler word usage. Let’s get started.
What Are Filler Words?
Filler words are words and sounds people use in speech when thinking of the next thing they plan to say.
Luckily, it’s easy to figure out which words you use (and how often you use them). Try a speech coach like Yoodli.
Yoodli is an AI-powered speech coach that provides judgment-free, personalized insights on your eye contact, weak words, and of course, fillers, so you improve your speech. In fact, you can identify the fillers you use most in one easy step: simply upload or record a video on Yoodli and take a look at the resulting analytics.
For example, by analyzing Elon Musk’s 2014 commencement address at the USC Marshall School of Business, Yoodli identified 42 fillers that Musk used. The most frequently used were: uh, um, and like. Check out the speech on Yoodli or take a listen below to see the filler word usage for yourself:
You can use insights on your own filler words to better understand how and when you use them and begin to practice speaking without them. Yoodli even gives you a complete transcript of your speech, so you can review it for fillers yourself and see exactly when you used them.
What Is a Filler Phrase?
In a similar vein, a filler phrase is a phrase that speakers often use in speech. Just like filler words, people use filler phrases when they’re filling space or still considering what to say next.
For example, some of the most common filler phrases are:
- You know
- I mean
- I guess
- You see
Filler Word Examples
There are tons of fillers — probably too many to list. Keep in mind that these are words people use to fill space while they’re thinking, so they can vary pretty wildly from person to person. However, there are still some common culprits.
What Are the Most Common Filler Words?
Filler words in and of themselves are pretty common. However, there’s definitely a handful of words that get used more often than others.
Some of the most common filler words include:
In the above example of Musk’s commencement speech, we can see that he used those top three fillers the most.
Everyone uses filler words, including well-known faces like Musk. But why do we use them?
Why Do We Use Filler Words?
There are lots of other reasons why people use filler words. Usually, these words are used to fill the space when you’re talking, especially if you’re still trying to figure out what you’re going to say.
But there are other common reasons too, including:
- To indicate that you’re not sure about something
- As a tick (in this case, an involuntary word or sound) or nervous habit
- In awkward or uncomfortable situations
Why It’s Important to Avoid Filler Words
Avoiding filler words is important when it comes to public speaking. Unfortunately, using fillers can actually hurt your overall delivery of your speech. They can also distract the listener, even in casual conversation.
When you use fillers like “um” and “uh” excessively, it affects both your credibility and your confidence. Your listeners might think you don’t know what you’re saying or talking about if you use too many filler words.
Although a few fillers here and there won’t make or break your speech, having too many can put you in a bad light. That’s why it’s critical to avoid fillers as best you can.
How Do I Speak Without Filler Words?
Luckily, it’s not impossible to speak without fillers. However, it’ll take a bit of dedication and practice. Here’s how to speak without them.
1. Identify which filler words you use most often.
As mentioned above, you can easily pinpoint the words you use (and their frequency) with Yoodli’s free AI tool. It’ll even tell you what percentage of your speech was fillers (in Musk’s case, it’s 5%).
2. Pause and think before you speak.
Instead of saying something like “um” while you’re trying to get your next thought out, simply pause. Short pauses in speech are totally normal and are one of the best tools for decreasing filler word usage. In fact, Yoodli has an entire course dedicated to the power of pause. Check out one of the first installments below:
3. Try decreasing your pace (AKA, speak slower).
When you speak faster, you’re actually more likely to use filler words. To combat that, try decreasing your pace and speaking a little slower. To see your exact speaking pace, upload or record a video on Yoodli and check out the pacing analytics. Taking a look at Musk’s pace, we can see he spoke at a pace of 172 words per minute, which is a bit fast.
Even though fillers aren’t inherently bad, actively working to lessen filler word use can improve your public speaking skills. Tools like Yoodli can help you nip these words in the bud quickly, since you’ll know exactly which words you’re trying to avoid.
Although you might not be able to eliminate every single filler word you use, with a bit of practice, you should be able to decrease your usage over time.