When I hear casual conversations, I realize how many meaningless words we strew throughout our verbal outpourings. Some of these words do have a dictionary meaning, but we don’t use them according to their definition. We use them to fill space.
Prominent among words thus used are “oh,” “um,” “well,” and “you know.” Speakers scatter these sounds through their utterances not to express a thought but to avoid silences that would invite their interlocutors to seize the moment and start speaking. They can get away with that because we consider it rude to interrupt someone who is speaking.
Thanks to my rigorous training as a public speaker, I learned to eliminate from my speech these worthless sounds. That makes what I say seem taut and economical, pointed and precise. I enjoy listening to other speakers similarly trained.
That said, I am surprised by the number of people I hear, particularly on the radio, who slide into using verbal nonentities while they rattle on. Some of the users are highly professional experts who are, nonetheless, not trained public speakers.
So I refocus on keeping my speech devoid of flotsam unless, um, I—oh, well, you know—sometimes forget.