What are Verbal Fillers & How do they affect your speech?

Imagine a person is giving a speech in front of a large audience. The first words out of their mouth? “Uh…hi.” That’s it. That’s all it takes to let verbal fillers affect your speech. Then they continue…“Uh, but umm, like, hmm, you know, I mean, I guess”….With each filler, the audience becomes more unclear, the speaker more nervous. By the end, both sides are thankful it’s over.

What are Verbal Fillers & How do they affect your speech?Verbal fillers are those not-so-meaningful words that we use to fill the gaps in our speech. Think of them as the sounds our thoughts make. While these unnecessary sounds do have a reduced harm on our casual conversations, they make our language redundant, distracting, and unimpressive when it comes to public speaking!

Also known as crutch words, verbal fillers are more common than you think. In fact, 3-5% of all speech are non-content words. Naturally, a speech without any filler sounds mechanical, so eliminating them is not the goal. Reducing our fillers is a more manageable goal, andproper training in public speaking can help us minimize these fillers with just a few key exercises. Linguists, call them speech disfluencies as they disrupt the usual flow of the speech if not kept under check.

We use filler words due to psychological reasons-

Often,we use these fillers in our everyday speech resulting in getting habituated to it. This behavior gets ingrained in the brain and becomes a part of our speech.

Christenfeld and Creager, a pair of Personality and Social Psychologists have said that increased self-consciousness is another reason. It could be due to the fear of public speaking(commonly known as stage fright) or a lack of familiarity with the audience. Lack of knowledge on the topic could also be a hindrance to effective verbal communication. Sometimes constant use of verbal fillers is also an indication of hesitation in speaking our minds. These reasons are not only limited to the human psyche, but they also narrow down to our conditioning in speech and language. We observe, we hear, we learn. Especially children pick up the preliminary language development in their early years by listening to their parents, teachers, and surroundings.

Perhaps, one more reason could be our thinking process not matching up with our talking speed and vice versa. So, to articulate better speech, it’s crucial to pause and think rather than pause and use unnecessary fillers.

Too many fillers disengage the audience-

Using too many fillers reduces the clarity of the speech and fails to deliver the intended message. Keeping your audience engaged is the foremost task of addressing the speech. Moreover, repetitive use of words like ‘I think, I mean, I guess’ makes the person more likely to sound unsure. The use of too many fillers causes the audience to fizzle out their attention from the speech.

Flow and tone of speech get disturbed-

Speech should flow smoothly like butter on bread. Excessive fillers take away that smoothness. It becomes a challenge to understand what the speaker wants to convey otherwise. In this way, the primary message may get lost in the flow. That’s why public speakers give so much emphasis on the flow and tone of speech. Want to be a credible speaker? Reduce excessive verbal fillers.

Limits the comprehension of the listener-

Spontaneous speech naturally has some disfluencies as the speaker is continuously ideating their thoughts and concepts. All a listener wants to hear is a clear and easy-to-follow message. But having a varied number of long pauses and disfluenciescauses limitations in understanding the substance of the speech.

How to resolve it and be more skilled at speaking

  • Find out what’s the reason behind you using so many fillers. Is it because you are nervous? Or are you just habituated to using them? One solution to this is to take public speaking classes. A teacher or a trainer can help you with improving your speaking skills. Check out our video here  on our youtube channel or below about 98thPercentile Public Speaking students and see what they have got to say.

  • Identify the most commonly used fillers when you speak next time and note them down. Find alternative phrases to replace them. One easy way to do so is by filming yourself or recording yourself when you speak.
  • Deliberately slow down- pause when need be. There is no need to rush down the thought process. The clarity in speech occurs when you slow down a bit.
  • Reduce the filler usage consciously and then practice, practice, practice. Practice with your peers or with yourself in front of the mirror daily. Don’t undermine the power of practicing.
  • Polish your vocabulary. Get familiar with new words. Read more and add new terms in your vocab and make an effort to use them throughout the daily conversations.
  • Listen to other people talk. Listen to your favorite sports commentary or watch a lengthy documentary. Take notes of new words and observe how people speak.

Not using filler words or using them excessively can harm the credibility of the speaker. As long as you communicate effectively and naturally influence the audience to convey your message, we might as well say that your job is fruitful and accomplished. Training with a coach can also significantly improve your credibility as a speaker. So, 98thPercentile is conducting a masterclass on Verbal Fillers for children in grades 3 to 8 on 12th December 2021. Qualified and experienced teachers will host the masterclass, followed by winning activities to analyze the children’s skills. Click Here to learn more about the masterclass and register with us today for no penny charged. Try our free trial classes today!


Filler words disrupt the flow of speech, disengage the audience, and limit the listener’s comprehension. To be a better speaker, consciously reduce the usage and incorporate practice sessions. 98thPercentile is soon coming up with a live masterclass on Verbal Fillers paired with some engaging, fun activities for grades 3 to 8 on 12th December 2021.