Do you want to be more effective in getting your message across to clients?  Or promote a class that you’re teaching?  The way you communicate can make or break your ability to succeed in every day conversations.  Cleaning up your vocabulary is a great way to “sell” yourself – and your ideas more effectively.

Read the sentence below:

“So, I’m teaching a little workshop this Wednesday. It’s for women in like their 40’s and 50’s. I just really want to help them with losing weight, you know. Do you um, want to sign up?”

How many “filler words” can you count in the statement above? 

There are six words that don’t need to be in that sentence. Why do people say “like”, “um” and “just” when they’re talking? My guess is that they do it in place of a PAUSE. Perhaps it’s our fast-paced, multi-tasking society, trying to get the message across quickly. For some reason, it seems easier to talk fast than to PAUSE and gather thoughts.

So, I’m teaching a little workshop this Wednesday. It’s for women in like their 40’s and 50’s. I just really want to help them with losing weight, you know. Do you um, want to sign up?”

When you’re busy blowing over your words, you might lose your listeners full attention or confuse them. These extra words can make it hard for people to follow along with you.  They might even tune you out.

Here is the sentence above without fillers, does it feel different this way? More confident? More clear?Communication

Jamie, I’m teaching an awesome workshop this Wednesday. It’s for women in their 40’s and 50’s. I’m excited to to help them with losing weight. Are you free?”

Find one or two words that you overuse and then work toward reducing your use of them and pausing instead.  Or, find more powerful words to replace them, like the ones above.  “Awesome” and “excited” are two examples.  Of course, those words can also get over-used and then you’ll sound like a cheerleader!  Awesome!  It’s a step in the right direction…

Once you’ve cleaned up your word choices, you’ll get your message across more clearly and confidently. It’s not that you need to eliminate these words. Instead, use them less frequently and not all in one sentence.  Add pauses into your dialogue and it will allow you to make better word choices.

Seven Words That Act as Fillers and Their Impact

#1 So. People start their sentences with this word. “So, I went to the grocery store yesterday.”  It’s unnecessary. They also use it to place emphasis, “I’m sooooo happy!” It works, but can be overdone. “I’m so happy. We get to go hiking and it’s so cool. So, do you want to come?” You get the point. It happens.

#2 Just. “I just want to get more clients.” vs. “I just went to the market.” Do you see the difference? The first use of “just” is to add drama. It also sounds whiny. The second use is appropriate because it’s describing an action that happened recently.  

Try this: “My schedule is usually full, but I have a few spots available.  Do you know anyone who is looking for a trainer?”  This is much better than “I just want to get more clients.”  See how whiny it is?

#3 Like. Teenagers and valley girls are not the only ones over-using this word. It’s often heard when someone is trying to find the word that they really want to say. It’s a filler for lack of vocabulary. “It’s like….” “Oh, it’s like…. what’s the word I’m looking for?”  

Stop saying this word so much and you’ll sound more educated, without having to get a degree!  

Pause while you search for the right words to say. It allows the listener a break to gather their thoughts.   
#4 You Know. These two words often become a phrase that seeks approval. Ideally, they’re used to clarify if the listener understands. “You know what I mean?” This is great, if you can wait for a response – but many people keep talking after asking this question.

Its especially frustrating when speakers say this to an audience and the answer to that question is, “No, I don’t know what you mean” but can’t reply. People also say “you know” in the middle of sentences and it’s usually when they’re not feeling confident. Listen and you’ll hear what I mean.  Know what I mean?  (ha ha)



“I’ve been out hiking in the mountains, you know.”

“We went to that new grocery store and then the sun was setting, so we stopped at the place, you know – where people run a lot by the beach.”

“I think she is trying to convey that she’s frustrated, you know?”

Try This: Read the above sentences without “you know”.  You’ll see it doesn’t need to be there.
#5 – I mean. These two words are often paired with #4, but show up on their own. “I mean, yeah I want to go.”  

#6 – Um/Uh. Obvious, but everywhere. It pollutes the English language. Pause people. Please!?!?

#7 – Little. This is often used when talking about something you want to make smaller.  As the example in the beginning demonstrated, it’s not good to use when talking about an event you want people to attend!  

I’ve caught myself saying this when I don’t want to intimidate the other person. “It’s just a little convention I’m speaking at.” NO! “I’m speaking at a wellness convention with leaders from around the region.” Two completely different outcomes!

Remember, these words aren’t bad, they’re extras. Reducing use of them can bring more flow to your speech and force you to pause more often to collect your thoughts. 

Which word do you use the most? Tell us in the comments below! 

How will you work to reduce it’s use?

Beverly Hosford

Beverly Hosford, MA teaches anatomy and body awareness using a skeleton named Andy, balloons, play-doh, ribbons, guided visualizations, and corrective exercises. She is an instructor, author, and a business coach for fitness professionals. Learn how to help your clients sleep better with in Bev’s NFPT Sleep Coach Program and dive deeper into anatomy in her NFPT Fundamentals of Anatomy Course.