Binary Interjections’ and How to Avoid Using Them


Binary interjections (also known as fillers, interrupters, or hesitation devices) include “um”, “ah”, “uh”, “er”, “oh”, “like” (used as a filler), “hmm”, or any word or phrase that fills time in a sentence but provide no tangible value or meaning.  They evoke hesitation and uncertainty about what to say, a lack of confidence, poor preparation, and signal that the speaker may be in trouble. They serve as a placeholder to let the audience know that the speaker has uncertainty.


Fillers occur frequently and are often said without the speaker noticing.  They indicate that the speaker is looking for the right word or thought and is on the border of planning and executing what to say.  As a result, this uncertainty distracts the audience from the main message, and makes the speaker’s delivery less effective and less eloquent.   When in a formal setting, like an interview or business presentation, excessive use of fillers will significantly damage the presenter’s forcefulness and assertiveness.

How SpeakPulse can help

SpeakPulse helps users identify bad speaking habits, one of which is the excessive use of binary interjections.  With a SpeakPulse Assessment, a user will be able to identify what fillers they use and how often they use them. With this knowledge, users have an opportunity to focus on weak areas and eliminate unnecessary fillers from their delivery.

When you’re in the SpeakPulse application, draw your attention to the Assessment Details tab.  Looking at the Fillers parameter, you will notice your score. Anything above a 90% is typically very strong and therefore you should not be concerned.  However, anything below an 80% usually indicates there is some room for improvement. For further specificity, you can open your audio recording and listen for the interjections throughout your sample, thereby uncovering specifically which interjections you tend to use more than others.  Whether it be excessive ‘ums’ or ‘ahs’, now you know what areas you need to improve.

No matter how much you practice and rehearse, you will always occasionally use fillers.  In order to minimize them, practice and preparation will be key. Start by focusing on them when you speak – at all times.  That means recognizing them during daily conversation, when you’re on the phone at work, having a business meeting, or out to dinner with your parents or spouse.  Don’t concentrate on any other parts of your speech at the same time – take time to solve one part of your speech delivery at a time. If you’re preparing for a speech, an interview or any kind of presentation, prepare rigorously and work to consciously eliminate unnecessary interjections.  During presentations, fillers are often used during a transition to another topic, or as a sign of uncertainty. The more you’re prepared the more fluent you will sound, and the less likely you are to use fillers as a crutch. Similarly, focus on limiting outside distractions like working on another task while you’re speaking or getting thrown off by your surroundings.  Narrowing your focus to the current dialogue will help you manage your cognitive load and reduce the need for fillers.

Other ways to minimize fillers include keeping your sentences simple and short.  The longer the sentence or thought, the more likely you are to create a run-on sentence with more fillers and unnecessary words.  If you can get in the habit of “closing the loop” and shortening your sentences, you will often find yourself being more forceful, decisive and assertive.  Don’t add additional content for the sake of doing so. Try to stop using phrases like “ya know” or “I mean” that add no meaning to your statement. Being concise while fully conveying your message will help you strike the right balance.

It’s very rare to completely cut out fillers, but understanding your bad habits, when they occur, and how to eliminate them will make you a more effective speaker.

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