Skip to main content

How to Reduce Vocal Fillers

Vocal fillers are the words or sounds we use to fill in the gaps when we're talking. Common fillers in speech include um, uh, ah, you know, like and so. These are sometimes used appropriately to let people know that we're still talking and about to move on to our next point. More often though, they signify nervousness and can be extremely distracting when used in abundance. Simply put, the best speakers use little or none of these vocal fillers. So then let's discuss some of the ways to avoid our 'um's and 'ah's.

The first step to reducing vocal fillers is to become aware of them. Count the vocal fillers you use in conversation or speeches. Notice when your friends and family use filler words. Pay attention to how many 'um's professional communicators i.e. actors, reporters and talk show hosts are using. You will probably find that people are much harder to listen to when they use lots of fillers.

Next, remember to end your sentences before moving onto the next one. Verbal and written communication is often very different. We tend to speak more conversationally and informally than when we write. This is good in lots of ways. But it can be distracting in a more formal speech. People often speak in the form of a continuous run on sentence. This makes important information hard to follow. Remember to end your thought with a mental period before moving to your next one. You can even think of starting your spoken sentences with a capital letter.

Finally, never underestimate the power of a deliberate pause. People tend to fear silence. But this can be a powerful tool in a speech. It allows you and your audience to stop for a moment to check-in with wherever you are in the speech. It can help create a dramatic moment. It allows you to take a breath and give eye contact to the audience. This fosters a sense of engagement with the audience. So remember to pause and breathe at appropriate times in your speech.

These methods should help you to use less fillers in your speech. Take notice of fillers in daily speech. Use proper grammar when speaking as if you were writing. Lastly, replace your fillers with deliberate pauses. I've found these methods to be helpful in the classroom and in life. Try it for yourself!