To fight against the “um” is to fight against 100,000 years of history, argues Michael Erard, author of “Um…: Slips, Stumbles and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean.”
“If listeners are so naturally repelled by ‘uhs’ and ‘ums,’ you’d think those sounds would have been eliminated long before now,” he wrote in an article on Slate.com. But, Erard argued, similar filler words are found in every language on Earth.
The idea that those sounds people make to fill pauses are bad is about as old as radio, he wrote, and started in the United States. But sometimes they help.
For instance, a University of Michigan study found phone interviewers who occasionally paused and threw in an “um” or two got better responses than interviewers who spoke quickly and never uttered a filler word. Why? The fast talkers sounded too scripted.