How to Improve Your Public Speaking – Remove Filler Words

Patricia Fripp executive speech coach

Patricia Fripp executive speech coach

Do you find Filler Words are irritating as I do?

Laura Hale Brockway had this article in a Ragan Communications online newsletter. Hope you find it as interested and important as I do. You may want to print it for some of those irritating people you work with <G>

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.

PR Daily 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.

Please keep up the good work Laura…your new fan Patricia Fripp



  1. When I record a video of a presentation, I always have to allocate a bunch of editing time for taking out ‘um’ and ‘you know.’

    Comparing the two versions, one with the ‘um’s and one without, is really staggering! Taking out all of these filler words creates a strong, direct piece of communication. Keeping in filler words is doing a huge disservice to your message.

  2. I mean. Literally. For sure. Awesome.
    My four least favorite. Thanks for the list. I’m leading a seminar at work and needed more examples. I’m replacing “whatever” with “fair enough” in my own daily patter because I think it is stronger. Perhaps you can suggest something else? Thanks again.

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