Conversational intelligence: minimize the use of filler words

[object Object]

Photo by Cody Engel on Unsplash

It's time to stop overusing filler words like "um," "uh," "like," and "you know" in your everyday conversations. These little words detract from your message and make you sound less confident and credible. We all need a moment to collect our thoughts and compose ourselves. These words may occasionally serve a purpose in casual conversation or informal writing, but overusing them as a crutch is a surefire way to undermine your authority.

Whether you're a public speaker, freelancer, tutor, writer, consultant, or simply chatting with your friends at a coffee shop, reducing your use of filler words can improve the quality of your speech and writing and how you're perceived. We'll review filler words, why they're used, and, most importantly, how to eliminate them. Continue reading, and your audience (as well as your reputation) will thank you.

Recognizing the common culprits

What are filler words?

Filler words are simply words that are used to fill spaces in a conversation. Though these words are perfunctory in some way, they do not necessarily add value to your speech or writing. They are also known as crutches, fillers, or markers.

While talking casually to friends or an informal audience, using filler words may not be a problem. The right degree can add a more conventional and relaxed atmosphere, even in public or formal speaking. On the other hand, using too many filler words often give off the impression that you are nervous, uncertain, forgetful, or absent-minded. This detracts from the quality of your presentation.

What are the commonly used filler words?

Filler words mostly comprise adverbs. Very, really, actually, basically, quite, honestly, literally, and seriously. Because adverbs are essential to speech, they can not and should not be completely eliminated. Instead, they should be used only when necessary.

Other filler words are: like, and just, although this depends on how they are used since they are both capable of more than one meaning.

There are also filler phrases. Some common ones are: I mean, I want to say that, I suppose that you see, …or stuff like that, and so on. These are unnecessary to your speech and should be refrained from.

Additionally, fillers can also be sounds, with "uhm," "hmm," "er," and "ah" being more commonly used than words. They can sometimes be used for interaction or dramatic effect, but too much can convey a lack of unpreparedness and make you sound boring.

Why do we use fillers?

Filler words are mostly used out of habit. They are natural and spontaneous, especially since we might already be accustomed to hearing others speak that way. But other reasons could also be that the person is unprepared, uncertain, hesitant, nervous, or out of words.

Also, the use of fillers may increase depending on the topic being discussed. Complex or abstract subjects like philosophy and politics are usually very subjective so more words may be used.

Some speakers use filler words to their advantage — as indicators that the conversation is not over or to prevent interruptions that may happen during a pause. 

What, then, is the problem with filler words? It hinders effective communication. A few concise statements will have more impact than long rambling with words that have no meaning. When the latter is removed, the audience can quickly get more value from your speech.

How do you stop using filler words naturally?

If you find your speech littered with too many filler words, you might want to fix that and come off as a more knowledgeable and powerful speaker.

We have carefully selected and condensed the advice of numerous public speaking professionals to provide you with these practical pointers. These quick tips will help you ensure your speech is clear and concise.

1. Identify your speech patterns

Start by identifying the most common filler words and phrases you use. Keep a log of your conversations and presentations, and review them to pinpoint your go-to fillers, so you know exactly what to work on. Awareness is the first step to change.

2. Get an accountability partner

Share your goal of eliminating filler words with a friend, family member, or colleague. Your friends can also help to assess you and identify your habitual fillers and how you use them. Someone holding you accountable can be a game-changer when breaking bad habits.

Ask them to remind you when you slip up gently. With this awareness, you begin gradually restricting yourself from them, even when speaking. You'll choose words for effectiveness and focus on delivery.

3. Pace and pause your speaking

The nervousness that comes with public speaking is called glossophobia. Some signs are faster speaking and the use of more verbal crutches. A way to cope with this anxiety is to slow down your speech intentionally. This helps you connect better with your thoughts, your audience, and the ideas you want to share. 

Timely pauses here and there can also make your speech more poignant and make you sound more confident. It creates a space for your audience to reflect on your last statement.

Proficient public speakers have mastered the arts of pacing and pausing to convey confidence to their audience and maintain their attention. An unhurried pace while speaking may be one of the best steps to deliver a piece free of filler words.

Challenge yourself to practice pausing and pacing, and see the difference it makes in your communication!

4. Practice, practice practice

This is the golden rule of perfecting any skill, including speaking. Rehearse every oral presentation from start to finish, having the mind to do away with unnecessary words. Record your practice sessions and analyze each recording. Repeat this process as many times as required. Also, look at your body language to help you master your stage presence even more.

You can also rehearse making impromptu conversations about a random subject. Making speaking well a habit rather than a mere persona for official presentations is better. The goal is to be able to speak for a considerable length of time without using unnecessary fillers. Practice makes this possible.

The practice also helps you master other elements of good speaking, like tone, body language, pace, and pause, as we discussed earlier.

Dedicate a few minutes each day to practice your speaking skills without filler words. You'll be amazed at the progress you make!

5. Expand your vocabulary

Sometimes we rely on filler words because we struggle to find the right words to express ourselves. Invest time expanding your vocabulary by reading, listening to podcasts, or using vocabulary-building apps. A richer language toolbox will make you less likely to fall back on fillers.

Make a frequent practice of learning new words, their spellings, connotation, and usage. Make conscious attempts to integrate them into everyday conversation.

6. Have a mock presentation

This is. Similar to the point we made about practicing. The difference, however, is that instead of rehearsing privately, you get to present in front of persons of your choosing before the presentation.

You can also receive helpful criticisms from your trusted audience. These help you chisel your tone, mannerisms, composure, choice of words, and fillers. It is best to rehearse with a friendly audience, as they are more likely to pay attention and provide you with real clues on what to fix.

A mock presentation can also help you and your audience identify some crutch words that may have previously skipped your notice.

7. Celebrate your progress

Remember to acknowledge and celebrate your victories, no matter how small. Recognizing your progress will boost your confidence and motivate you to continue improving.

Share your filler-free journey on social media and inspire others to join the revolution!

Incorporate Workee into your workspace

Managing clients can be very tasking. You need an online workspace that helps you sort things. With Workee, you have the right features to make your work less tedious. Here are some incredible services that Workee provides for free:

  • A professional website for you can be set up in one minute according to the themes and layouts you love. Clients can find your website and book you directly.  

  • Smart booking and scheduling features because freelancers often have multiple appointments often across time zones. Workee schedules your meetings and reminds you of them as they come.

  • Payments and automated invoicing for services, logs of received payments, automatic tax calculation, and multi-currency support — all without commission fees.

  • Video calls and conferencing with your students, with a notepad feature to take notes during call sessions.

  • Clients' management tool to easily manage your interactions with clients. Here you can keep all respective client information together in one place, manage sessions, and receive payments.


It is said that old habits die hard. Creating new, positive habits requires effort, but the reward is often worthwhile. The tips we discussed may seem like a lot of work, but the results will thank you. You will speak more efficiently, and sound more proficient on your subject matter, giving your clients a reason to trust you.

A platform like Workee, too, can help you sell yourself as the professional that you are. Create a free website today and get started.

Ihor, CEO at Workee

Excited to start with Workee? Schedule a demo with our Manager!


Keep updated about latest industry insights and subscribe to our newsletter

Follow Us

  • facebook
  • instagram
  • linkedin
  • tiktok
  • twitter
  • youtube

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to the use of cookies.

Find out more here.