How To Stop Saying Um And Other Filler Words

Do you often use filler words such as um, oh, ah, you know, like, so, basically, and many others? If so, read this article for tips on how to reduce your usage of filler words.

Requirements To Actually Be Able To Stop Using Filler Words

Importantly, you have to be self-aware or at least have honest feedback from others about your speaking in order to stop using or reduce your usage of filler words. You probably won’t realize how often you use filler words unless other people give you feedback, or you consciously pay attention to your usage of filler words. You can’t actively work on improving a skill unless you actually know about it and that you want to work on it.

How To Discover How Often You Use Filler Words

Record Yourself Talking And Analyze Your Speech

I think the best way to become aware of really how often you use filler words is to record yourself talking. I was recently making a long YouTube tutorial video, which was composed of several small videos, and I became very self-aware of how often I use filler words. I used filler words like um, ah, and so a LOT. One excellent software to use to record your voice and play your voice back is Audacity. Audacity is free, open source, and easy to use. There are also several good recording apps in the Google Play store and probably on the Apple App Store as well. If you are able to devote a little bit of time, I think recording yourself and learning about how you would sound to others and how often you use filler words is quite helpful.

Get honest feedback from others about how you speak, sound, and your use of filler words

Another technique to learn about how often you use filler words is to ask people to give you feedback on your usage of filler words. It’s possible you’ll never notice it yourself, which is why third party perspective is very helpful. This feedback may need to be from someone very close to you. Make sure the person knows that you really want honest feedback, and you won’t hold a grudge if they tell you someone that ends up hurting your feelings.

If you are preparing for an interview, you could arrange to do a practice or mock interview with someone. If you are able to arrange a mock interview, make sure to ask the interviewer to give you feedback on your speaking and use of filler words. Similarly, if you are preparing to give a speech or presentation, it might be very helpful to ask someone to listen to you speak and give feedback on your usage of filler words.

Techniques To Stop Or Reduce Your Usage Of Filler Words

Replace Filler Words With Substitute Words Like “STOP” Or “BREAK”

One great technique I’ve tried, which I learned about from a champion debater, is to practice speaking, and while speaking, any time you have an urge to use a filler word, substitute the filler word with a word such as “STOP” or “BREAK”, said loudly. Using a special substitute word to replace a filler word could help you become more aware of your use of filler words.

Count the number of time you use filler words

As mundane as it might seem, actually counting the number of times I used filler words has been very helpful for me, and I think it could be very helpful for you too. Make a short recording, even 1 or 2 minutes long, and just pay attention to how many filler words you use. It can be quite a revelation to learn that you might be using a LOT of filler words.

Learn To Be OK With Silence

I used to think that using filler words was probably better than being silent. I never consciously thought it through, but I think I defaulted to thinking that by using a filler word, you can indicate to the person listening that you are actively thinking. In a conversation, not speaking while you are thinking can make you seem more confident and professional. Listen to any good intellectual or public speaker, and you’ll likely notice lots of pauses, but not much use of filler words.

While it might be very uncomfortable initially, you will need to force yourself to use silence instead of filler words. Just like getting into an exercise regime after being physically inactive for a long time can be very hard, learning to reduce your usage of filler words can be hard and time consuming. But, the benefits can be great for you.

Why Excessive Usage Of Filler Words Can Be Detrimental

For better or for worse, many people think that someone who uses a lot of filler words isn’t confident, competent, or professional. And some people may think that a person who uses a lot of filler words doesn’t have good social skills.

In A Job Interview

In a job interview, especially if you are competing against several other job seekers, it’s important to stand out. If you use filler words a lot, the company might think you have low self-confidence, aren’t very competent, and maybe wouldn’t be a good fit for the company.

Speeches or Presentations

Like in a job interview, high usage of filler words can be bad in a presentation or speech. Filler words in a presentation or speech can indicate hesitancy, lack of self-confidence, and maybe lack of competence.

By not using filler words, you’ll actually putting less of a cognitive strain on your listener’s brains. Filtering out many filler words can be taxing on the brain. Your message can be more succinct and probably better if you remove filler words.

Caveats About Filler Words

Sometimes using filler words is appropriate. Native speakers use them often, and the proper usage of them can help an English language learner become a better speaker. Occasionally, using filler words may help in social situations or help you better express your emotions. But, I’d recommend to lean towards using very few filler words, even in your private life, if you are able.


While you may have used filler words your whole life, and never paid attention to your use of them, reducing or completely stopping your use of filler words can be very beneficial. You’ll likely sound more confident, more competent, more professional, and probably put less cognitive strain on your listener’s brains by avoiding the use of filler words. And, you might even get better social skills by reducing or eliminating your use of filler words. You can train yourself to stop using filler words; you just need to put in the time and effort.

What did you think about this article? Do you have anything to add? Let’s discuss it in the comments below. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

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