The Case for Umms and Erms

What’s the deal with presidents and their love of a good “erm”? You’ve got Justin Trudeau’s infamous address that saw him utter fifty “umms” in just over a minute, and then there’s the fact that Boris Johnson’s “erms” are so prominent they feature on a printed face mask! On the surface they might be annoying to listen to, or they might give the impression that the offending speaker is ill informed, but an article in New Scientist magazine actually explains the important purpose these filler words serve, and that they might, in fact, be linked to intelligence. But none of this matters if you’re editing a podcast, and your guest has done nothing but “erm” all the way throughout. Intelligent or not, it can sound pretty annoying, and you’ll probably want to go in and cut them all out. But don’t get too carried away!

Podcast editors know that there’s so much more to editing than cutting out “ums” and “ahhs”, but it’s still a massive part of the job. However, if you’re too haphazard with your cuts, you can make a conversation sound incredibly robotic and unnatural. Some “erms” flow between the words that proceed and follow them, making a seamless cut nigh on impossible. What’s worse than an erm? A bad edit that’s obvious to the listener. An important rule in editing is that the listener shouldn’t notice there’s anything missing. But more than that, some people actually put “erms” to good use. A good “erm” is one that allows the speaker to quickly shift gear, to change the topic or pace of the conversation. If you get rid of that “erm” you undo the intended effect.

If you’re stressing out over an “erm” that you just can’t seem to cut out, don’t stress! Leave it in and put your time to better use focusing on the actual content of your show.

Leave a Reply