22 filler terms we abuse every day—and how to avoid them

We utter these words and phrases in response to awkward situations and uncomfortable silences. Here are a few tips to end your complicity in the practice.

Have you ever been in a conversation with a seemingly smart, rational person who says something utterly absurd? It can leave one at a loss for words. “Uh-huh,” might be the only available response, followed by, “Gee, how ’bout those Cubs?” Absurd or baffling statements aside, too often we find ourselves filling silences with pure twaddle. I recently made a list of these awkward filler terms. Though they might appear to keep conversation flowing, they’re nothing more than verbal speed bumps. And when I started paying attention, I was alarmed at how frequently I was using them. Readers, how many of these creep into your conversations? 1. Um 2. Uh-huh 3. Right 4. Cool 5. OK 6. Yeah 7. Like 8. Really 9. That’s interesting 10. Hmmm 11. All right 12. Good answer 13. I’ve heard of that 14. Is that so 15. You know 16. I know 17. I hear you 18. Surely not 19. You don’t say 20. Seriously 21. Basically 22. Got it There are ways to avoid using so many filler words in conversation, for example: Organize your thoughts before you speak. Often when I’m thinking about what I want to say next, the filler word comes out. Say the filler word in your head. And then let the conversation continue. Learn the value of conversational silences. This is perhaps the best tip, because they are the perfect opportunity to let the other person talk or to politely transition out of the conversation. Any other tips for avoiding filler words? Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor. She is author of the writing and editing blog, Impertinent Remarks. (Image via & via)


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