Filler Words are all those words, sounds or gestures that are superfluous (don’t add any meaning) to the speech and decrease its effectiveness and sometimes (when excessively used) even the authority or credibility of the speaker. Common filler words are:
- So, You know, I mean, okay?, basically, right?, well…, I mean
- Er, Ehm, Ahm
- Repetitions “And then he said… said: ’ What are you doing here?’ “
- Long vowels: “I will shut down three agencies, commerce, education aaaaaaaanddd”
- Tongue clicks or other similar sounds
- Excessively long silences or pauses.
- Ticks or repetitive gestures, such as constantly nodding with the head or adjusting one’s tie or watch.
Note that speakers of different languages use different filler words, and also some speakers develop their own set of “personal” filler words.
Your role as a filler word counter is to listen carefully to all speakers and record all instances in which a filler word is used, as well as what kind of filler word it was. At the end of the meeting, you report the results. Many times the Filler Word Counter and the Grammarian are the same person and are actually just one role.
At the beginning of the meeting, you will be asked by the Meeting Leader to explain your role. Try to explain not only what you will be doing, but why having filler words all over someone’s speech is bad.
Some clubs have the tradition to make participants literally “pay” for the filler words they use - for each instance of a filler word, they could pay 0.10€ or $0.15, or whatever amount the club decides. This usually drives down the number of filler words rather quickly. If this is the case, you should include that both in your initial description of the role and in your final report.
Some clubs like to ring a small bell every time the speaker uses a filler word, up to a certain number. Sometimes this technique is used only for more or less experienced speakers. We advise against any such interruptions, as they are not only distracting to the audience but can also cause a “cascade effect” in which the speaker loses his train of thought and hesitates, which in turn causes more filler words, causing more bell rings, and so on in a vicious circle.