remove filler words

Want to improve your vocabulary? Here's how to remove filler words

January 31, 2024
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It’s like, totally normal to use filler words in conversations. But are you conscious of using them too much?

In this article, we’ll break down the most common preconceptions about, um, filler words and offer practical advice on how you can become a more confident communicator.

What are filler words?

Fillers words—such as um or uh—are words or sounds you might use to “fill in” empty spaces in communication. In speech, they usually indicate that you’re thinking about what to say next, while in writing, they can be a sign of padding or even “waffling.”

In most instances, filler words can reflect poorly on your communication skills. But because they come out unconsciously, they can be hard to, you know, stop.

The “filler effect”

“Like” is one of the most commonly used filler words. And while saying it might seem like a harmless habit, it can have huge implications on your confidence, career, and even romantic relationships. This is what we call the “Filler Effect.”

We ran a study* to learn more about the impact this “Filler Effect” could have, and here’s what we found:

  • Career setbacks: 20% of individuals believe they have been held back at work because of the way they speak, especially when considering their use of filler words. For Zillennials (aged between 18 and 35), this shoots up to 50%, with 27% in both the 18-24 and 25-35 age groups feeling disproportionately affected.
  • Confidence knocks: Almost a quarter (24%) of participants believe if someone says “like” or “um” a lot in a conversation, they don’t know what they’re talking about. And for 72% of the group, vocabulary has a huge impact on confidence. This is exactly why it’s crucial to feel empowered through speech.
  • Sounding smart: “Perceived intelligence,” or “sounding smart,” is a reason why 57% of people, especially women, want to reduce their use of filler words.
  • Too nervous: 45% of people admit their use of filler words increases when they’re nervous, like when giving a presentation or in an important meeting.
  • Hard to date: 33% of people admitted to rejecting someone or saying no to a date based on the way someone spoke. (Talk about nerves in a high-pressure situation!)

The good news? You could drastically reduce your use of filler words and make your speech your superpower with some simple tricks.

Mental fitness: the key to super speech

Just like going to the gym to support your physical health, mental fitness is all about supporting your cognitive health. It’s also our study respondants’ top wellness goal.

And here’s how mental fitness, well, fits in to supercharging your speech: Good mental fitness helps to strengthen all areas of verbal communication: vocabulary, memory recall, tone, and more. So, the next time you feel the “Filler Effect” taking hold, or you have an important meeting that’s making you nervous, try these simple tricks and practices designed to uplevel your cognitive well-being and help you speak more confidently and effectively.

Daily habits

  • Learn a new word daily: By learning one new word every day, you can gradually build your vocabulary without feeling too overwhelmed.
  • Use a thesaurus: An online or physical thesaurus can help you find synonyms for words you commonly use, which can add variety to your speech.
  • Maximize your commute: If you take public transit, use this time to read books, articles, and other forms of written communication to help expand your vocabulary and develop an understanding of different writing styles.
  • Positive screen time: Set a challenge to play a vocabulary game or complete a puzzle before scrolling on social media.

In the moment

  • Slow down: When you think about slowing down your pace of speech, you become more intentional about what you’re saying, and you’re less likely to use filler words.
  • Embrace silence: A pause is a powerful communication tool. Don’t be afraid to take a second to gather your thoughts. If you’re giving a presentation or in a meeting, taking a sip of your drink is a great pause tactic to give your mind time to catch up.
  • Stay present: Try to stay aware of what you’re saying and notice if filler words are creeping in too much. While you don’t have to eradicate them completely, if you sense you’ve said one too many, take a breath, slow down, and think of an alternative phrase.

Filter out filler words with the Elevate app today

As you can see, developing eloquent verbal communication skills is essential for both your personal and professional life. That’s because you can effectively convey your message and create a lasting impression through thoughtful word choice and tone.

And if you’re looking for a tool to help you practice and refine your language abilities, look no further than the Elevate app.

Elevate features 40+ brain training games designed by experts to deliver real results. Plus, it ensures you get a well-rounded approach to vocabulary building, improving your verbal communication, and supporting your overall mental fitness, thanks to the variety of vocabulary, synonym, and context clue-based games.

If this sounds like something you could benefit from, download the Elevate app now, available for free on iOS and Android. With personalized vocabulary games and comprehensive language training, you'll join the near 90% of members who report improved vocabulary after using the app. So what are you waiting for? Start your journey to eloquence and improve your verbal communication today.

*The survey was commissioned by Elevate through OnePoll in November 2023 on 2000 participants across the US.

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