NOTE: This was written in November ’14, for a speech in Toastmaster Club because in my last speech I had been rounded criticized, deservedly so, for saying “you know” excessively. So just for fun, I tried to offer this excuse. I don’t think I convinced them. You know some cohorts can be stubborn critters!
Do I sound like a teacher? Well, that’s like, I mean to say, that’s who I am, you know! Are you with me? To be honest, you know, words are beautiful! You know what I mean? As a matter of fact, many expressions serve very pragmatic functions which add color and excitement to what might be dull, dry, and dead. You with me?
So in this “defense of a much-maligned, pragmatic, parenthetical expression” I’m arguing for the right to say “you know.”
My defending “you know” reminds me of the mother who watched her son in a boot camp march. She said, “Oh, look, everybody is out of step except Johnny!” I’m not saying everyone is wrong except me, but, you know on the other hand, I don’t plan to eliminate all my “you knows.” Let me tell you why. “You know” is a parenthetical expression just like these phrases: as a matter of fact, to be honest, and you understand.
1. When I want to confirm to my audience that I am aware I am telling them something they already know. For instance: It is so hot in August, you know, I am planning to set aside extra funds to vacation at Yellowstone Park during that month.
2. When you want to soften criticism. For instance: You know, you really shouldn’t text while driving.
3. When you want your audience to identify with your imagery. For instance: When the man drove through my yard, you know, he dug ruts that will last all season.
4. When clarifying. For instance: I’m going to buy a new car; you know, one of those elite styles that make people think I can afford it.
5. When used like a question. For instance: Every grandmother has the most beautiful grandchildren in the world, you know?
Um, I agree, filler words can be very distracting if they are just thrown in to cover a pause when choosing a particular word or thought. I once counted 37 “you knows” in a thirty minute presentation. That’s excessive and irritating.
I have deliberately gone overboard with my “you knows” in this presentation to prove that point. Excessive and irritating!
So seriously —
As a helpful hint, if you would not write “you know” in an essay, it probably should not be used in a spoken presentation either. But if you, like, really, um, er, mean “you know” then use “you know.”