A message to, like, you

A bug in how you talk lessens the impact of your conversations.

Dear user of the interjected“like”,

As you search for the, like, right phrase, you, like, say a specific word that lessens your impact. What a pity!

At the very least, it shows you decided to speak while the thoughts in your head were still forming. It can also imply a discomfort with the briefest of pauses in the rhythm of a conversation.

As a lover of the English language I promise you: nothing will be lost if you embrace the non-verbal pause –that tiniest of lulls– and wait a fraction of a second more to let your mind locate the right word in the lexicon available to you before finishing your sentence.

In fact, you probably would make a better impression by waiting a sliver of a second longer to collect the correct vocabulary building block needed for your argument.

What’s worse: using the word “like” may signal an inclination to not let go of the proverbial talking stick. And while you’re undermining other people’s understanding of you, your uncertainty shines through.

Surely you would agree that a speaker is less likely to be interrupted if he/she expresses his or her thoughts clear and distinct, crisp and measured, instead of littered with the repetitive interjected “like”?

What’s more: a liker’s unwillingness to be interrupted (by using the word “like”, letting more, like, verbal stuff hang in the air) will complicate the other party understanding you. Your thoughts, perhaps holding great value, are largely ignored as someone tries to, like, hear you finish your sentence.

Natural stops and pauses, fertile breeding ground for interruptions and interjections, for the rhythm and flow of dialogue, have been eliminated.

You rarely need it as a preposition, too. When you do need to next time, consider some alternatives. The phrase “as if”, for instance. Or, you guessed it, the phrase “for instance”. For example. And let’s not forget the word “such” or the phrase “such as”. One, if not all of them, are at least as equally fitting as that mind-numbingly bland “like”.

An equally prevalent and annoying use of the word “like”, then. The prepositional phrase “I was like…”

It is usually followed by whatever observation or phrase you are about to recollect from the recent past. It is comparably and devastatingly unnecessary.

Just describe what happened, what you said, or how it made you feel in that moment. “And it made me feel…” “And I replied by saying…”

So people that, like, like to say, like all the, like, time, be aware that using the word ‘like’ at the very least makes it likely some people that try to listen to you are, like, less capable to do so. Others may, consciously or subconsciously, be less inclined to do so, or maybe not even like you.

Still others may think you’re a retarded teenager that has no love for language and little respect for their conversational partners. Thus, your use of the like screws you over.

That’s sad, because on average, it is, likely that your thinking deserves more and better attention.

Now, a simple suggestion

For the love of what you have on your mind, stop saying “like” all the time.

People will better appreciate what you, like, have to say.

And you probably deserve that.


Sidney Vollmer.

I write for a living, produced this podcast on digital technology, published this novel and this diary. My third book, ON/OFF: searching for balance in digital times was published by Dutch publishers Nijgh & Van Ditmar April 2017.