Crutch Words

As a broadcaster I am well aware that communication is my modus operandi. My job requires me to communicate both knowledgeably and engagingly with my audience and bearing this in mind I am highly sensitive to my choice of language. Much the same way as a Tradesperson is particular about his or her tools or a Politician is concerned with spin and opinion polls. My words are my tools of trade and they can either make or break me.

However it has come to my attention that I overuse the word ‘like’. No biggie, you might think? Perhaps only if I was using the word as a verb, for example, ‘I like you’ but all too often I find myself using it in a rather awkward comparative sense, for instance ‘The apple was like a different colour to the orange.’ Personally I blame it all on Cher et al. from the 90’s cult classic ‘Clueless.’ WHATEVER! (I may have just formed a W with my thumbs and forefingers but I digress.)

Obviously this an irritating habit and what is worse is that it does not represent me very well at all. According to CLEO magazine, (and yes I managed to score the last edition ever!) ‘Too much Kardashian- style lingo or speaking permanently in question makes you seem less intelligent and capable.

I acknowledge that the first step to change is awareness and so my co-host and I have set up a ‘like’ button in the studio that pings whenever I use ‘like’ out of context. While this shock treatment is effective, it is subject to human error, namely my co-host Shad who almost always forgets to click the button. However in his defence it must be said that the misuse of the word, ‘like’ has become so commonplace that it has become part of his aural tapestry.

As part of my verbal re-awakening I thought that it would be useful to compile a list of some other filler words and phrases or as we say in the radio biz ‘crutch’ words. Here are the top 5:

You know – I always feel that this makes the speaker seem unprepared or either desperate for validation or both. It is a linguistic crime and at times I feel that I am the No. 1 offender.

Really – come on admit it, most of us are guilty of this one. It is particularly silly as we are questioning the veracity of a statement that had just been uttered in earnest.

Um – try to look someone straight in the eye as you say ‘um’…..ahh, awkward.

Ahhhh – this is best used in private, behind closed doors….if you get my drift?!

So – it’s akin to using ‘very’ except that it is redundant, totally unnecessary and downright boring, unless you have a friend named So and you’re purely using their moniker for effect.

Now that I have become aware of the most common ‘filler’ word faux pas, the next logical step is action! This is the part where we Google ‘thesaurus’ and meticulously comb through the available electronic resources to find an eloquent and ineffable replacement for ‘like’. So long crutches!


Illy is one half of the Illy & Shad Breakfast Show on Hot FM FNQ. Originally from Queensland, she has a background in Journalism and the Creative Arts. She is currently writing a column for Cairns Life magazine.

TWITTER @ilariabrophy
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