How to stop saying “um”: 6 tips for removing filler words

Want to stop saying um, like, you know, and other filler words? Learn tips for flawless speech—and how to edit out filler words afterward with Descript.
January 9, 2024
Ashley Hamer
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If you’re not a robot, you likely don’t speak in an uninterrupted, grammatically flawless manner.

When humans talk, it's normal to subconsciously use short filler words that fill brief pauses while we think of whatever we will say next. These words also give others a verbal cue that we have more to say, even if we've stopped speaking for a moment.

Filler words are perfectly natural in everyday conversation, but there are situations where it makes sense to remove filler words from recordings. 

Keep reading for the lowdown on how to stop saying um, when you should use filler words, and how to avoid the hassle of manually removing them by using Descript’s advanced AI tools.

What are filler words?

A filler word is a phrase that fills in pauses or gaps in everyday speech. In English-speaking countries, a lot of people use filler words like  “um,” “uh,” “well,” “you know,” and “I mean.” 

Some might call them verbal crutches, but the use of filler words serves a purpose. Not only do they keep the flow moving while your brain catches up, they also communicate tone, soften otherwise brash declarations, and even act as in-group signaling. But they’re not always the best way to get your message across.

Why remove filler words

Here are a few of the main reasons why you’d consider removing filler words from your podcast:

  • Better listener engagement. If you’ve ever listened to a podcast and thought, “Can you please just get to the point already?” or found yourself waiting for the next time the host mutters “um,” you know what we’re saying here. Excessive filler words can quickly annoy listeners, so removing them might help you hold their attention.
  • Increased credibility. A clear, concise message is often more persuasive. Whether you’re recording a podcast or sharing a screencast with your team, using fewer filler words is a sign of well-structured thought and confidence in the subject matter. 
  • Improved professionalism. Filler words fit in naturally in podcasts centered around casual conversations. But it makes sense to remove filler words from more formal podcasts like narrative audio dramas, storytelling-focused shows, and investigative news reports — or really any show with a more polished tone.
  • Effective time management. One filler word may only take a millisecond or two, but that time adds up quickly when you consider all the filler words that can slip in over the course of an episode. If your episode feels slow or you’re slightly over your target length, cutting filler words can help shorten it without losing valuable content.

What’s the problem with using too many filler words?

Here's the thing: filler words are fine when you're talking to friends. However, when you're talking in a more serious setting, like recording a YouTube video or podcast, they can make you sound like you don't have a lot of confidence in what you're saying. So it’s good to be aware of them (and remove them) in situations where you want to sound clear and on point.  

6 tips to avoid saying um and other filler words

1. Pause and collect your thoughts

When you feel the urge to say "um" or another filler word, take a deep breath instead. You may have briefly lost your train of thought and can't find the right words. It's ok. 

With a pause, you'll be able to gather your thoughts, whether you're public speaking or recording a video, and your delivery will have a natural rhythm that listeners appreciate. 

2. Replace filler words with silence

Embracing silence can be uncomfortable at first, but it's far more effective than using filler words. Silent pauses give the impression of composure and good communication skills. It also lets listeners absorb what you've said and anticipate your next point.

💡 PRO TIP: Make eye contact with your audience during a silent pause. This act commands attention, whether you’re on camera or in person, and emphasizes the importance of what you just said, or what you’re about to say. Use silence to your advantage!

3. Use transitional phrases

Transitional phrases smoothly guide you from one point to the next, so you avoid pauses filled with "um" or other fillers. They act as bridges in your speech.

You can use phrases like "Moving on to...", "Let's talk about...", or "I think another important point is...". It keeps the audience on track and prevents fillers. If you're transitioning from discussing a product's benefits to its features in a video, you might say, "Having explored its benefits, let's look at its unique features..."

4. Record and analyze yourself

It can be eye-opening to record yourself speaking and then analyze the recording. You'll be able to hear where you insert fillers and how to fix them. 

If you find yourself uttering "ums" frequently, you can practice pausing and thinking silently before speaking. That way, you can consciously replace filler words with pauses or meaningful content when you're aware of it. 

5. Practice with bullet points or prompts

When you're trying to remember what to say next, bullet points, cue cards, or other prompts can help keep your mind organized. 

If you’re demonstrating a product, keep your outline visible with key points. For example, you might have bullet points like “Discuss battery life, then move on to camera quality.” You’ll stay more on track without resorting to fillers. If you have a little extra budget, you can buy teleprompter software to read off your script when recording video or audio. 

6. Focus on key messages

Know the most important points you want to convey before hitting record. Ask yourself, “What do I want my audience to learn or remember from this?” For a tutorial video, this could be the main steps of a process you’re teaching. 

With key messages as your guide, it becomes easier to stay on topic and resist the temptation to go off on tangents that might lead to filler words.

What to consider when removing filler words

Even with all the practice in the world, filler words still slip in sometimes. At that point, you’ll need to remove them in the editing stage. But before you go on a filler-word removing frenzy, here are a few things to think about.

  • Removing too many filler words can sound unnatural. It’s fine to remove a few "ums" here and there, but avoid going overboard. Editing out every single filler word tends to make a speaker sound robotic and inauthentic.
  • Filler words belong in certain formats. If you remove filler words from conversational shows, you risk making the show feel too formal and less engaging. And think twice if you’re making a comedy podcast — removing filler words risks ruining the comedic timing of certain jokes. But if you’re delivering a formal presentation, you probably don't want filler words; same goes for voiceover.
  • Ask yourself if it’s worth your time. Even with Descript’s easy filler word removal tool, removing filler words adds time to the editing process. You still have to choose which filler words to remove and listen to the audio afterward to ensure it sounds correct. So avoid removing filler words just for the sake of it and make sure your podcast or episode calls for it.

How to remove filler words from audio and video using Descript

Descript’s convenient filler word removal feature instantly detects superfluous filler words and removes them from your audio track. Here’s how to get rid of filler words with just a few clicks:

Step 1. Import and transcribe your audio file

Create a new project and either drag and drop your audio file into Descript or click the “Choose a file…” button to import it. Descript will then begin to automatically transcribe your file. The transcription of a 60-minute podcast typically takes around two to three minutes.

Step 2. Look over the detected filler words

Once Descript completes your podcast transcription, it instantly labels filler words within the transcribed text using a light-blue underline. By default, Descript detects the following filler words and phrases:

  • “but you know”
  • “hm”
  • “I guess”
  • “I mean”
  • “I suppose”
  • “kind of”
  • “like”
  • “mmm”
  • “or something”
  • “right”
  • “so”
  • “sort of”
  • “uh”
  • “um”
  • “well”
  • “you know”
  • “you know what I mean”
  • “you see”

Step 3a. Delete filler words manually using the transcript

There are a couple different options for removing detected filler words. To remove words one-by-one in your transcription, just highlight a filler word with your cursor and hit the “delete” key. 

Descript then deletes that word from your audio track and automatically crossfades the newly conjoined regions, creating a pretty seamless edit. 

You can identify these filler words yourself, or run Descript's Filler word detection, which will underline each filler word in light blue.

Step 3b. Delete filler words automatically using the “Remove Filler Words” tool

Your second option is to have Descript remove your filler words automatically. Click the Action icon at the top of your transcription and select “Remove filler words…”

Image of user selecting Remove filler words tool in Descript

This brings up a dropdown menu displaying every filler word the app detected, and giving you four removal options:

  • Delete: Removes the filler word from both the audio track and the transcription. 
  • Delete and replace with gap: Adds a gap in the audio equal to the length of the spoken word.
  • Ignore: Removes the word from the audio track, but only crosses out the word in the transcription, so you have a visual record of its being there. 
  • Remove from transcript: Removes the filler word or phrase only from the transcript. 
Image of user choosing the Delete filler word option in Descript. 

Choose your removal option, and Descript will handle the rest. Your script will be free from crutch words and filler phrases in seconds.

💡 PRO TIP: Need to restore a removed filler word? Go to “Edit” > “Undo” or press Command + Z (MacOS) or Control + Z (Windows). If you use the “Ignore” function, you can also restore the word at any point by highlighting it within the transcript and clicking the “Strikethrough” button in the top toolbar.

Talking without filler words is one of the hardest speaking skills to learn. But you don’t have to hire a speaking coach to become a good speaker. 

With Descript, you can talk into the mic as you normally would, and quickly remove filler words when editing, making your content more clear and impactful. Create a free account today to start.

Ashley Hamer
Managing Editor at Descript. Musician, podcaster, writer, science nerd.
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How to stop saying “um”: 6 tips for removing filler words

The word "um" being sawed in half by a giant saw

If you’re not a robot, you likely don’t speak in an uninterrupted, grammatically flawless manner.

When humans talk, it's normal to subconsciously use short filler words that fill brief pauses while we think of whatever we will say next. These words also give others a verbal cue that we have more to say, even if we've stopped speaking for a moment.

Filler words are perfectly natural in everyday conversation, but there are situations where it makes sense to remove filler words from recordings. 

Keep reading for the lowdown on how to stop saying um, when you should use filler words, and how to avoid the hassle of manually removing them by using Descript’s advanced AI tools.

Transcribe. Edit. As easy as tapping your backspace key.
Create your podcast from start to finish with Descript.

What are filler words?

A filler word is a phrase that fills in pauses or gaps in everyday speech. In English-speaking countries, a lot of people use filler words like  “um,” “uh,” “well,” “you know,” and “I mean.” 

Some might call them verbal crutches, but the use of filler words serves a purpose. Not only do they keep the flow moving while your brain catches up, they also communicate tone, soften otherwise brash declarations, and even act as in-group signaling. But they’re not always the best way to get your message across.

Why remove filler words

Here are a few of the main reasons why you’d consider removing filler words from your podcast:

  • Better listener engagement. If you’ve ever listened to a podcast and thought, “Can you please just get to the point already?” or found yourself waiting for the next time the host mutters “um,” you know what we’re saying here. Excessive filler words can quickly annoy listeners, so removing them might help you hold their attention.
  • Increased credibility. A clear, concise message is often more persuasive. Whether you’re recording a podcast or sharing a screencast with your team, using fewer filler words is a sign of well-structured thought and confidence in the subject matter. 
  • Improved professionalism. Filler words fit in naturally in podcasts centered around casual conversations. But it makes sense to remove filler words from more formal podcasts like narrative audio dramas, storytelling-focused shows, and investigative news reports — or really any show with a more polished tone.
  • Effective time management. One filler word may only take a millisecond or two, but that time adds up quickly when you consider all the filler words that can slip in over the course of an episode. If your episode feels slow or you’re slightly over your target length, cutting filler words can help shorten it without losing valuable content.

What’s the problem with using too many filler words?

Here's the thing: filler words are fine when you're talking to friends. However, when you're talking in a more serious setting, like recording a YouTube video or podcast, they can make you sound like you don't have a lot of confidence in what you're saying. So it’s good to be aware of them (and remove them) in situations where you want to sound clear and on point.  

6 tips to avoid saying um and other filler words

1. Pause and collect your thoughts

When you feel the urge to say "um" or another filler word, take a deep breath instead. You may have briefly lost your train of thought and can't find the right words. It's ok. 

With a pause, you'll be able to gather your thoughts, whether you're public speaking or recording a video, and your delivery will have a natural rhythm that listeners appreciate. 

2. Replace filler words with silence

Embracing silence can be uncomfortable at first, but it's far more effective than using filler words. Silent pauses give the impression of composure and good communication skills. It also lets listeners absorb what you've said and anticipate your next point.

💡 PRO TIP: Make eye contact with your audience during a silent pause. This act commands attention, whether you’re on camera or in person, and emphasizes the importance of what you just said, or what you’re about to say. Use silence to your advantage!

3. Use transitional phrases

Transitional phrases smoothly guide you from one point to the next, so you avoid pauses filled with "um" or other fillers. They act as bridges in your speech.

You can use phrases like "Moving on to...", "Let's talk about...", or "I think another important point is...". It keeps the audience on track and prevents fillers. If you're transitioning from discussing a product's benefits to its features in a video, you might say, "Having explored its benefits, let's look at its unique features..."

4. Record and analyze yourself

It can be eye-opening to record yourself speaking and then analyze the recording. You'll be able to hear where you insert fillers and how to fix them. 

If you find yourself uttering "ums" frequently, you can practice pausing and thinking silently before speaking. That way, you can consciously replace filler words with pauses or meaningful content when you're aware of it. 

5. Practice with bullet points or prompts

When you're trying to remember what to say next, bullet points, cue cards, or other prompts can help keep your mind organized. 

If you’re demonstrating a product, keep your outline visible with key points. For example, you might have bullet points like “Discuss battery life, then move on to camera quality.” You’ll stay more on track without resorting to fillers. If you have a little extra budget, you can buy teleprompter software to read off your script when recording video or audio. 

6. Focus on key messages

Know the most important points you want to convey before hitting record. Ask yourself, “What do I want my audience to learn or remember from this?” For a tutorial video, this could be the main steps of a process you’re teaching. 

With key messages as your guide, it becomes easier to stay on topic and resist the temptation to go off on tangents that might lead to filler words.

What to consider when removing filler words

Even with all the practice in the world, filler words still slip in sometimes. At that point, you’ll need to remove them in the editing stage. But before you go on a filler-word removing frenzy, here are a few things to think about.

  • Removing too many filler words can sound unnatural. It’s fine to remove a few "ums" here and there, but avoid going overboard. Editing out every single filler word tends to make a speaker sound robotic and inauthentic.
  • Filler words belong in certain formats. If you remove filler words from conversational shows, you risk making the show feel too formal and less engaging. And think twice if you’re making a comedy podcast — removing filler words risks ruining the comedic timing of certain jokes. But if you’re delivering a formal presentation, you probably don't want filler words; same goes for voiceover.
  • Ask yourself if it’s worth your time. Even with Descript’s easy filler word removal tool, removing filler words adds time to the editing process. You still have to choose which filler words to remove and listen to the audio afterward to ensure it sounds correct. So avoid removing filler words just for the sake of it and make sure your podcast or episode calls for it.

How to remove filler words from audio and video using Descript

Descript’s convenient filler word removal feature instantly detects superfluous filler words and removes them from your audio track. Here’s how to get rid of filler words with just a few clicks:

Step 1. Import and transcribe your audio file

Create a new project and either drag and drop your audio file into Descript or click the “Choose a file…” button to import it. Descript will then begin to automatically transcribe your file. The transcription of a 60-minute podcast typically takes around two to three minutes.

Step 2. Look over the detected filler words

Once Descript completes your podcast transcription, it instantly labels filler words within the transcribed text using a light-blue underline. By default, Descript detects the following filler words and phrases:

  • “but you know”
  • “hm”
  • “I guess”
  • “I mean”
  • “I suppose”
  • “kind of”
  • “like”
  • “mmm”
  • “or something”
  • “right”
  • “so”
  • “sort of”
  • “uh”
  • “um”
  • “well”
  • “you know”
  • “you know what I mean”
  • “you see”

Step 3a. Delete filler words manually using the transcript

There are a couple different options for removing detected filler words. To remove words one-by-one in your transcription, just highlight a filler word with your cursor and hit the “delete” key. 

Descript then deletes that word from your audio track and automatically crossfades the newly conjoined regions, creating a pretty seamless edit. 

You can identify these filler words yourself, or run Descript's Filler word detection, which will underline each filler word in light blue.

Step 3b. Delete filler words automatically using the “Remove Filler Words” tool

Your second option is to have Descript remove your filler words automatically. Click the Action icon at the top of your transcription and select “Remove filler words…”

Image of user selecting Remove filler words tool in Descript

This brings up a dropdown menu displaying every filler word the app detected, and giving you four removal options:

  • Delete: Removes the filler word from both the audio track and the transcription. 
  • Delete and replace with gap: Adds a gap in the audio equal to the length of the spoken word.
  • Ignore: Removes the word from the audio track, but only crosses out the word in the transcription, so you have a visual record of its being there. 
  • Remove from transcript: Removes the filler word or phrase only from the transcript. 
Image of user choosing the Delete filler word option in Descript. 

Choose your removal option, and Descript will handle the rest. Your script will be free from crutch words and filler phrases in seconds.

💡 PRO TIP: Need to restore a removed filler word? Go to “Edit” > “Undo” or press Command + Z (MacOS) or Control + Z (Windows). If you use the “Ignore” function, you can also restore the word at any point by highlighting it within the transcript and clicking the “Strikethrough” button in the top toolbar.

Talking without filler words is one of the hardest speaking skills to learn. But you don’t have to hire a speaking coach to become a good speaker. 

With Descript, you can talk into the mic as you normally would, and quickly remove filler words when editing, making your content more clear and impactful. Create a free account today to start.

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