The Benefits of Using Filler Words in Your Writing

04 Sep 2020


Filler words really get a bad rap. You know the ones I’m talking about: “um”, “uh”, “like” …

And hedge words, such as “just” or “kind of,” are treated just as badly.

According to this article from the Harvard Business Review, though, using filler or hedge words in your speech and writing can actually be useful.

While excessive use of filler words can give the impression of a lack of confidence, and can detract from your credibility, it seems that a well-timed filler or hedge word can do wonders for effective communication.

Imagine, for example, that you are sending an email to a colleague and need to give them feedback on an article they wrote. In order to soften your message and avoid offending them, you may throw in a “just,” a “simply,” or even a hedge phrase such as “we may want to consider.”

“The article you wrote is too technical. You need to re-write it” sounds much harsher than “The article you wrote is just a bit too technical. You may want to consider re-writing it.”

In addition, filler words can come in handy when you are speaking and don’t want to be interrupted. A simple “um” or “so” can let people know that you are not finished with what you are saying.

There are some filler and hedge words that you should try to avoid, though.

Starting a sentence off with “I think” automatically gives your audience the impression that you do not view yourself as an authority. Instead, try saying “In my experience I have found,” which will validate your expertise.

Another thing to avoid is “I may be way off base, but…” Using this kind of hedge sentence will immediately give the impression that your comment is not a valuable contribution. However, saying “What if” or “Let’s view this from a different perspective” will illustrate creative thinking.

Ultimately, the use of filler and hedge words can be effective in helping to convey your message. Just be sure to use them strategically and leave them out when they don’t benefit what you’re trying to say.

Watercooler Writer 
Ever wonder what writers talk about? Our writers are always sharing something new with each other, from the latest and greatest in apps and technology to grammar rules and the origin of certain words. With our Watercooler Writer series, we have taken our very best finds, and are sharing them with you.

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