“So” is the new “Um”

So is the new Um

You know to avoid “um” and “uh,” but what about “so”?

“So” is the newest filler word on the block.

It made it on this list of words that can sink a job interview, and NPR calls it a “weasel word” that can make it seem like you’re trying to avoid giving a straight answer. Ouch.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on one word, but it can’t be denied that filler words eat away at your credibility and detract from your message.

Whether you use the word “so,” “um,” or one of the more recent trends, “literally,” I guarantee you have a filler word even if you don’t notice it.

Here are two easy steps to cut out your fillers:

  • First, find out what your fillers are. You can’t change a habit until you realize it’s there. Record a voicemail to yourself and then play it back. Take notes on what fillers you hear. Common fillers to watch for: “like,” “just,” “um,” “uh,” “actually,” “you know,” “honestly,” “literally,” and – of course – “so.”
  • Then, practice pausing. When you pause, you’ll naturally drop the fillers. Record another voicemail and be intentional about pausing. Challenge yourself to pause for longer than it feels comfortable. The average pause is only about half a second. Try and stretch that out to 2 – 3 seconds.

Getting rid of your fillers might take some practice, but it’s worth it. You’ll sound more confident and your message will be clearer.

Are there any fillers you’d add to this list?



3 comments on ““So” is the new “Um”

  1. Thanks for an interesting read. I’m with Richard and going with your natural style. Reducing fillers is fine in most peoples’ cases. We work with particularly nervous speakers and getting them to overly focus on fillers only serves to heighten their fears. So. um. we advocate focusing on the audience more…

  2. Lip smacking and other clickity mouth sounds!

    Those can be extremely distracting to some people, totally taking them out of the interaction. Which is a shame because if you are reading this blog, then you have an important message to communicate.

    When you’re at a critical junction in your speech, you might find it useful to what I call a “wheelspin” which is basically saying what you intend to say, in your head, before you actually say it. This way you get less fudges, especially for those critical “hotpoints” in speeches.

    Cheers. :)