Um, like, so: How Filler Words Can Create More Connected, Effective Communication

Think Fast, Talk Smart: Communication Techniques

May 23 2023 • 29 mins

We’re often advised not to use “um” or “uh”, or “so” and “you know” in our communication. But linguist Valerie Fridland might argue otherwise. “Language is about how we encode both the linguistic message and a social message,” she says. “Crutch words … are really valuable and they have arisen to serve a need.”

In this episode of Think Fast, Talk Smart: the podcast, Fridland sits down with host and strategic communications lecturer Matt Abrahams to discuss how and when we use "you know","so", and other filler words. For example, Fridland says, the way we use “um” varies greatly from how and we might use “uh.” And the use of “like,” while deplored by many, actually serves a linguistic function and can provide context and background for a listener.

She and Matt also discuss the social linguistic function of vocal fry and whether emojis have a place in business communication.

Fridland is a professor of sociolinguistics at the University of Nevada. She's an expert on the relationship between language and society and recently released a new book, Like Literally Dude: Arguing for the Good in Bad English.

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