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get to the point

The Articulated Pause: You Don’t Have to Make Noise While You Think

By Theda C. Snyder

Get to the Point has previously cautioned that using too many filler words can annoy your listeners and undermine your message. This certainly applies to all legal professionals and especially to podcasters who want to keep listeners from turning off the stream.

articulated pause

So it was discouraging to hear this snippet. One of the hosts of a prominent legal podcast recounted going to a barber shop to get spruced up for a party. He said the following in the space of 11 seconds:

It was like 9 or 10 in the morning, and I was like, yeah, I didn’t look good. I had like, I had like bedhead and stuff. And I was like, and this is a guy who works on tips and I am just getting absolutely blamed here.

That’s five “likes,” or one “like” every other second.

There’s a Name for That

It turns out there’s a name for filler words such as like, you know, well, umm, and OK: the articulated pause. While one part of your brain searches for the next right word, another part detests a quiet space and inserts the noise of a filler word. By definition, articulated pauses pop up in our speech, not our writing.

Some people almost never use filler words. Barack Obama is notorious for long pauses as he carefully chooses just the right word. On the other extreme, women, in particular, may have learned to try to prevent interruption by articulating a pause. Rather than use off-putting fillers, adopt techniques to override interruption such as to keep talking or call out the interrupter.

It’s the Articulated Pause

Articulated pauses can make you sound like a high schooler or a stereotypic Valley Girl — probably not the professional advocate image you were going for. Caroline Kennedy withdrew from consideration as a replacement for Senator Hilary Clinton in 2008 after she inserted “you know” into her responses 168 times during a 30-minute interview with a New York cable news network.

Try recording your side of a non-confidential phone conversation. (Some states prohibit recording the actual call unless all participants consent.) Did you like what you heard? Another technique is to ask close co-workers or family members to alert you when you utter your most-used filler word.

Naming a phenomenon helps us recognize and overcome it. Once you identify your own habitual articulated pause, you are on the road to eliminating it.

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More Writing Tips

Find more good ideas for improving your legal writing and communications skills in “Get to the Point” by Teddy Snyder.

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Teddy Snyder Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workers’ compensation and insurance coverage cases, including COVID-19 related coverage disputes, in person or by video. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 4th Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at and on Twitter @SnyderMediation.

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