Qualifiers, fillers, and apologizers

Delivering presentations

July 27, 2022

Word choice matters.

Brevity is best and clarity is key. This goes for both written and verbal communication.

In this guide, we’ll teach you how to own your voice and power up your next presentation by removing qualifiers, fillers, and apologies from your speech. These communication habits can muddle up your message, so we’ll learn how to banish them from the start.

Are you ready for battle? ⚔️

Table of contents:

Coming Soon.

Qualifiers

Qualifiers are words that limit or enhance another word’s meaning. We often use them unintentionally but they affect the certainty and specificity of our statements.

Some common qualifiers: very, kind of, maybe, really, quite, barely

Compare these two sentences:

The first sentence includes qualifiers, highlighted in blue. The second sentence has the qualifying words removed. What do you notice?

While both sentences convey the same message, the one with qualifiers lacks confidence and feels more uncertain. The sentence without provides direction and is easier to understand.

Construct better sentences

Overusing qualifiers can lead to unintended consequences that take away from your message.

  • They make your sentences unnecessarily long and hard to follow.
  • They indicate uncertainty instead of inspiring confidence.
  • Their overuse can make your writing or speech sound lazy.

To combat qualifiers, construct better sentences. Replace those pesky qualifiers with words that are descriptive and more precise with their meaning. One of the most common qualifiers is the word ’very’ so keep a keen eye out for that one when reviewing your script.

Here’s a list we’ve compiled of some words you can use to replace ‘very’

Cut qualifiers out of your next presentation and watch your speech soar to new heights. 🚀

Fillers

Fillers are the meaningless words and sounds we unknowingly make when we’re thinking of what to say next. Phrases like, “So…” and “Umm…” and “Right?” are some common fillers heard in the pauses and gaps of speech.

For the most part, filler words reflect poorly on our communication skills. They diminish our credibility and can make us seem less confident. Fillers can make us look unprepared and distract the audience from our core message.

And because filler words happen unconsciously—they can be hard to, like, stop.

Thankfully, we have a few steps you can take to eliminate fillers from your daily conversations.

  1. 💬 Identify your fillers. Be aware of the fillers you use in your everyday speech so you know what you’re up against. If you need assistance, ask a friend to point out your fillers while you practice a presentation.
  2. 💬 Embrace the pause. It’s uncomfortable at first but pausing during presentations can be powerful. Pauses can add emphasis to our message and give us time to collect our thoughts and take a breath.
  3. 💬 Use shorter sentences. Shorten your sentences by sharing one core idea at a time. Fillers often creep in when we need the time to process multiple thoughts in one message.
  4. 🤳 Record yourself. It can be hard to notice your own fillers when we present, so it’s a good strategy to record some of your presentations and analyze them afterward. This can help you pinpoint your fillers and take corrective action.

Like any bad habit, the use of fillers can be diminished with patience and practice. Now, take these tips and start pumping up your next presentation by removing filler words from your speech.

Apologizers

The final communication bad habit to address is apologizers.

Apologizers in speech are words and phrases like: “Sorry!”, “Pardon me”, and “My bad!”

Apologizers are often used unintentionally, even when we have no reason to apologize. Just like qualifiers and fillers, apologizers distract from our message and make what we have to say less effective. But they can also make us appear weak and less confident.

Apologizers are often overused for three reasons:

  • We lack faith in our judgment and assume we’ll be wrong, so we apologize in advance.
  • We want to avoid conflict and use apologies as a defense mechanism to sound agreeable.
  • Our childhood experiences cause us to over-apologize as a coping mechanism.

Speak effectively, speak unapologetically

Here are four steps you can take to remove apologizers from your daily conversation.

1. Identify triggers. It’s important to understand when and why we resort to over-apologizing. Does it only when you talk with your manager? Or maybe it happens when you’re unprepared? Perhaps it stems from a fear of being judged? Whatever the reason, being aware of what causes you to over-apologize is the first step to breaking that bad habit.

2. Breathe. Take a step back and ask yourself, “Have I actually done anything wrong?” If the answer is “No” then do not apologize. Apologizing without reason lets others know that you believe you were in the wrong.

3. Rephrase. If you feel an apologizer creeping into your sentence, pause and rephrase. Compare these two sentences:

The first sentence contains apologizers (highlighted in blue) and the second sentence has been rephrased to remove the apologizing words. Both sentences convey the same message—but doesn’t the second version sound much more confident?

4. Apologize without saying sorry. There may be some situations where an apology is necessary but not every apology has to be done by saying, “I’m sorry.”

Here are some alternative ways to apologize effectively without saying sorry:

  • It was thoughtless of me to not ask for your feedback.
  • I didn’t mean to offend you on that team call.
  • I shouldn’t have tried to fix the problem myself.
  • I messed up when I tried to start an argument with you.
  • It was wrong on my part to pass judgment on you.
  • I have learned my lesson, it won’t happen again.

Banish those bad communication habits

Now you’re ready to put your use of qualifiers, fillers, and apologizers behind you for good. Remember this guide as you’re preparing your next speech and make your presentation shine!

Ready to face your fear of public speaking? We’ve got you covered in our detailed guide here.