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

by Laura Hale Brockway


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?

This article was first published on Ragan Communication’s PR Daily.

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