Modern Etiquette: Interjections hurt your image

Mon Dec 30, 2013 3:54am EST
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By Mary Mitchell

(Reuters) - Remember the kids who used to pepper their conversations with "uh"? Or the next generation, which started generously sprinkling in "you know"? Canadians have their own seasoning, which they liberally apply to the end of sentences. An "eh" here and there is a dead giveaway.

Now the rage among the 11-to-30 year-old-set is "like". When added to an ample pinch of "omigawd", "totally", and "whatever", what you end up with is a tasteless stew of words. Many of us find ourselves counting the number of times "like" is used in a single sentence, instead of understanding what the conversation was supposed to be all about.

Interjections such as "uh", "you know", and "like" are used to allow the speaker's mouth to catch up with his or her brain, or to make sure the listener has a chance to at least try to attempt to get the meaning of what is being said.

People tend to use "like" more when they are relating something which is of particular interest to them, when the words just seem to want to tumble out. Most people are so inured to such a manner of speaking that they do not even realize how often they are using these interjections.

The problem is that this type of speech will brand the speaker as an airhead or clueless and uneducated. If you speak this way, people just won't take you seriously. This becomes especially important in job interviews when our verbal skills are being judged for a myriad of bottom-line-based reasons.

Remember that we communicate in three ways: what we say, how we say it, and what we look like as we speak. You may have fascinating anecdotes to relate as you sit in an interview. Yet, if all the "likes" you spew forth outnumber all the other words - or even come close to it - you are in trouble.

What can a person do to expunge such poor parts of speech from their personal usage? Do note that it takes approximately three weeks to create a habit - even longer for behavior to become automatic.


A group of youths play hockey on unicycles in Vancouver, British Columbia October 3, 2013. REUTERS/Andy Clark