We have been guilty of using these in our conversations and speeches. It helps us to get through a stressful public engagement, but to our audience, we might be perceived as being unprepared, incompetent and lacking confidence.
The common crutch words
Filler crutch words include “Um” and “Ah” which don’t really mean anything.
Emphasis crutch words – where you overuse the same word in a conversation, examples: “actually,” “really,” “literally,” and “consequently.”
Personal favourites: You might have a word that you often use: “perfect,” “awesome,” “super,” “excellent,” are some commonly used.
Unnecessary adverbs: These are words that have a place in writing and conversation but are frequently overused: “basically,” “definitely,” “very” “absolutely,” “seriously” and “obviously” are the common offenders.
Hedging phrases: These are words that you might use to join two sentences as you drag out saying the word out loud: “maybe,” “well,” “I suppose,” and “nevertheless.”
Why do we use crutch words?
Growing up, we have been conditioned to respond immediately, so when we are thinking of something to say, we feel compelled to fill the uncomfortable silence. Words like “Um” and “Ah” are also used to hold the conversational floor. Certain crutch words could also be common to a certain age group – “Like” being a commonly used word.
How to eliminate crutch words
Awareness is the first step to elimination. Record yourself speak for an unbroken period of at least 5 minutes. Write down all the crutch words you used. Make a concerted effort to avoid, reduce and ultimately eliminate from your conversation.
Focus on quality of speech over quality. You tend to have more crutch words when you repeat points.
Plan your speech in advance. Practice to fluently deliver the opening and closing part of your speech – know that section word-for-word.
Connect emotionally to what you are saying and focus on delivering that message to your audience. When you focus on the words and on its delivery, you are less likely to use crutch words.
If you are lost in thought – refrain from using a crutch word, your audience will not notice – unless you say so!
Most people fear silence in conversations. Silence is good, it allows people a chance to digest what you have said and can also be used effectively for emphasis of words. Silence also gives you as a speaker a chance to catch your breath and composure.
Slow down the pace. You are less likely to use a crutch word when you speak slowly and with purpose.
- Improve script Write for the ear and not the eye!
- Comma = 1 Pause Pause between words; else you’ll confuse your audience.
- Period = 2 Pauses At the end of a sentence, pause twice as long.
- Double underline key words, phrases, technical jargon To understand where to slow down and reduces crutch words.
Crutch words (verbal viruses) can dilute your leadership credibility; reduce and ultimately eliminate from its use.