My word


I recently saw an ad for an app that helps YouTube pros hunt down and eliminate filler words from their speech. You know…um, uh, well and…you know.

As someone whose own dialogue is replete with Valley Girl-isms a là “Like, it’s like, I mean,” this sounded like the app for me.

Except for the fact that I’m not a professional YouTuber.

I am a professional word-stringer-together-er, though, and I’ve discovered the hard way that I have favorite filler words. Like, a lot of them.

In addition to “like” (see above), I’m over-fond of a host of verbs including pad, nod and spin. I seem to have a special thing for “spin.” In my last manuscript, my editor highlighted so many incidents where Maggie spun around, I’m surprised she didn’t ask if my protagonist spent the majority of her time on a lazy Susan.

I also find that my characters grin, shrug and forget to breathe. It’s like they’re trapped in a never-ending game of charades during which they fail to provide the correct clues to their autonomic nervous systems. “One word…sounds like leave…”

And don’t get me started on filler words in my everyday/real writing life. I can’t stop using “just.” I’m always “just” checking in, or “just” asking or “just” wanting to know. The word has an inherent apology that sounds as if I’m fawning and scraping through my emails.

Then there’s “evidently,” a word that I evidently enjoy using, “really,” which really goes with anything, and overcompensating adverbs that make me sound like a gameshow host describing the prizes behind Door Number Three.

Great! Fantastic! Awesome! Amazing!

I do steer clear of my own bête noire: prepositional phrases that sound like police report about a stolen bicycle (at the present time, in the course of, in order to), but that’s about it. I’m as dependent on fillers as an aging Hollywood starlet.

But there is a word I use far too often that I refuse to abandon: love.

I love books. I love posts. I love insights. I love photos. And that’s because I love creativity, I love art, I love people, and I love the imperfection, disaster, beauty and madness that is life.

I love early and often, and I’m not going to stop loving anything that moves my heart. I’m okay with that. After all, couldn’t the world use a little more love?

Friends, are there words or phrases that you can’t stop/won’t stop using? Please share! I’d just love to hear about them! (See what I did there?)


Photo courtesy of Johnny Briggs via

49 thoughts on “My word

  1. Brilliant, Kathy! So, I am a huge fan of starting dialogue with “So.” I also use “in order to” way too much, but in my defense I claim the overuse of that phrase is the result of two decades of work in the legal field.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. The question is, do you want to write dialog that mimics the way people actually speak. Mostly, I do, so I use filler words and poor grammar, depending on the speaker, of course. I try to tailor such things to each character, my goal being that the reader can tell who’s speaking without a dialog tag.
    Another thing. I’ve noticed that public figures who speak eloquently and precisely often use filler words; umm, ahhh and other excess verbiage. I believe the reason is to slow their speech, giving them time to carefully consider each word before saying it. Maybe that’s a habit I should develop.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Oh, boy… there are so many to list, but I overuse so, you know, and actually. Verbally, I know I use Umm while thinking aloud. Thankfully, I’m not a professional word stringer togetherer, but I do spend a lot of time proofing anything I write that will be read by the professional word stringer togetherers. I don’t like to appear uneducated, though I have never tried to be Einstein. I like being in the middle of the pack, I just hate sounding like a doofus. Oh, and I am also guilty for you guys also. I know some ladies hate that, and I try to not use it, but there are many slips on that one. LOL. I love the post, Kathy! (see- love! LOL!)

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Thanks, Kathy! Adore this post! (Is that a good enough synonym for “love?”)

    I definitely use “like” when I speak. Also, I throw “just” around a lot in my manuscripts. I’m pretty sure that my book characters are very dramatic, always sighing at things.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I have a bunch of words I overuse in writing. “Just” is up there at the top. And my characters usually start off doing something too often, like smiling, and then as I correct those they move on to doing something else all the time, like nodding. I “just” wish they’d stop it!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Hi, Kathy –

    Y’all always have such interesting topics and this one is no exception. I’ve always wondered how writers avoid using the same verbs over and over again when telling their stories. Do you use thesaurus magic, compliments of the internet?
    Phrases from my youth do, occasionally, drop into my speech. My husband (we’d been married over 20 years at this point!), asked me why I used the phrase, ‘I’m fixing to go…’. I had no idea what he was asking until he pointed it out. Raised Southern, that was just a very common phrase so it never crossed my mind that I used it.
    For the sound fillers, I was ‘lucky’ enough to get an undergraduate degree in public speaking (for a never used teaching degree), so those were drummed out of my vocabulary then. Even now, I cringe when hearing ‘like, you know,…’.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. How wonderful to get a degree in public speaking! And very interesting about “fixing to.” That’s actually (another filler word!) a great topic for another post: regionalisms! I find the variety of vocabulary fascinating.

      As for finding alternates for verbs, a thesaurus definitely comes in handy for me. I also try to think through the intention or mood behind the motion. That (sometimes?) helps me avoid repetition.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. I’ve always been a bit jealous of folks who can say “fixin’ to” without sounding like they’re pretending to be from the South–it’s such a fabulous phrase! (And yes, “a bit” is one of my overused phrases…)

      Liked by 3 people

    3. Ruth, I was fixin’ to say my characters say “fixing to” a mite too much, even though they’re southern — and so am I! They’re also always “headed out” or “heading to” somewhere. Another southernism, I guess.
      Leslie, not trying to brag, but with my southern accent I can even get away with pronouncing it “I’m fit’na”, as southerners sometimes do!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Oh, dear…there was a post on a narrators’ board a few months back where folks were piling on about their authors’ verbal tics. Among the chief offenders:
    whipped (this is like SPUN, but causes more neck injuries, in exchange for possibly less vertigo)
    s/he narrowed his/her eyes
    a smile that didn’t reach his/her eyes
    I let out a breath that I hadn’t realized I’d been holding
    s/he quirked an eyebrow
    he closed the distance between us/ them
    and any cases of multiple-words-where-one-word-will-do, such as—
    “at this point in time”
    “I would be remiss if I were not to mention…”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. These are GREAT! I both laughed out loud and cringed at the times my characters smiled without letting it touch their eyes, let out breaths they didn’t know they were holding (much like forgetting to breathe) and whipped their heads around. (And let’s not forget whirling. My characters also like to whirl.)

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Such a great topic, Kathy! I start a lot of my dialogue in my books with “So,” but then again, it’s something people really do say ALL THE TIME. But still, one must vary one’s word usage, so I try to find other ways to start sentences, as well.

    And “just.” Oh, boy. Another word we do tend to overuse in our own speech and which pops up all the time in my series. And characters sighing? You’d think everyone in my books was in a constant state of annoyance. Sheez…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m with you on writing how people talk! “So” feels…so natural. I almost always start out sentences with “so.” If I’m honest, it’s more like, “So, hey listen, I um…” I guess I need a lot of runway for what I’m about to say.

      And the sighing! I still maintain that our characters have sigh-worthy experiences.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Yes, I find I used some of the same words constantly. None are coming to mind at the moment (didn’t sleep well/long enough last night so I’m brain dead).

    And I over use the 🙂 smilie all the time!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Just, possibly, so, probably, get, really–there’s just (oh, dear) too many to name them all. But “was” has a special place in my rough drafts. When I do a computer search, I routinely find “was” was (oh, dear) used 1,000+ times. At my first Toastmasters meeting I was invited to speak at Table Topics. They counted filler words (and, um, like, so). Becoming conscious for the first time every time I used one, I became tongue-tied and couldn’t say anything!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. There are so many! I’m afraid to do a search for “was” in my manuscripts. I’m sure I used/overused it!

      I’m envious of your Toastmasters experience! Very impressive. I think I’d be tongue-tied even if they weren’t counting my filler words!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. LOVE* THIS! I am up to my eyeballs* in a manuscript at this very minute*—just* stopped for lunch—and I have a zillion* of these foibles. I used to keep a list of my overused words, but I’m so in tune with them now that I just* go ahead and write ’em* but place them in brackets to fix during editing.*

    Unrelated,* I once met someone at a booksigning who marveled, “I thought people only did that in books!” after I’d thrown my head back and laughed.*

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Like JC, I start a lot of dialog with “so.” Also, I start with conjunctions – a lot. And I just can’t stop using “just.” (See what I did there?)

    There’s often a lot of shrugging and nodding going on.

    Fortunately, I remind myself to search for these words and delete them prior to sending the book to the publisher. That’s what drafts are for, right? Overusing favorite words?

    I wouldn’t abandon “love” either.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Fun post, Kathy! I’ve also noticed my characters do too much with their eyebrows — raise, wrinkle, arch, furrow! During edits I always have to go back and pluck some of those out. See what I did there?

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Kathy, this is so on point! I’d love to try an app like that on my ms. I do a word search for words like “that.” But the one I really have to police is “just.” I notice some cozies use “blew out a breath” so often it makes me worry the characters have a breathing disorder! I tried using the word “quirked,” as in “he quirked a corner of his lip,” but my agent forbid me. Shrugged, raised an eyebrow, shot him a look… you could do a dictionary of words and expressions I have to police!

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Oh dear. Once for a job they wanted me to go to Toastmasters, but I was too scared to go. For me: Umm, just, so, really (and really, *really*), clearly, obviously, though, a lot, and great. I also love love love (I love “love” also, Kathy, often in triplicate!). And “of course.” But one of the worst for me? Pretty. It was pretty obvious, pretty scary, pretty hard. Aargh! Like, you can see why I would have gone broke putting coins in the Toastmasters jar, right? Oh yeah…I forgot to add, “right.” My head is spinning. Sigh.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Love this post and love you, K! ❤️

    My characters shrug a lot, but I do think carefully about each and every shrug and sometimes it just* seems like the right thing that would happen.

    Also a big user of “just.”

    Liked by 1 person

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