The newest filler word to avoid

You’ve worked hard to cut ‘um,’ ‘uh’ and ‘like’ from your speech—but have you replaced them with ‘so’?

You know to avoid using “um” and “uh” when you speak, but what about “so”?

“So” is the newest filler word on the block.

It made it on this list of words that can sink a job interview, and NPR calls it a “weasel word” that can make you sound as though you’re not giving a straight answer.


That’s quite a reputation for a small word, but you can’t deny that filler words eat at your credibility and detract from your message.

Whether you use “so,” “um” or “literally,” you probably rely on a filler word when you speak, even if you don’t notice it.

Here are two easy steps to cut out filler words:

1. Find out what your fillers are. You can’t change a habit until you realize it’s there. Record a voicemail to yourself, and play it back. Note the fillers you hear. Common fillers to watch for are “like,” “just,” “um,” “uh,” “actually,” “you know,” “I mean,” “honestly,” “literally” and, of course, “so.”

2. Practice pausing. When you pause, you naturally stop using filler words. Record another voicemail to yourself, and be intentional about pausing. Challenge yourself to pause for longer than what feels comfortable. Most pauses last for only about half a second. Try to stretch that to two or three seconds.

Ditching filler words might take some practice, but it’s worth it. You’ll sound more confident, and your message will be clearer.

Which filler words trip you up?

Kelly Decker, president of Decker Communications, is a keynote speaker, messaging expert and executive communication coach. More practical tips can be found in her new book, “Communicate to Influence: How to Inspire Your Audience to Action.” A version of this article originally appeared on the Decker Communications blog.

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