Literally, the most, like, overused words, like…ever, you know?

“There are like, literally a million words that like so many people overuse and misuse, you know. I mean, like,literally  die every time I hear them!”

Have you ever heard anyone that sounds like this? Are you someone who sounds like this? The suggestion this week will be helpful for English learners, to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of abusing some common words in English, and also incredibly helpful for English speakers to break their, like, bad habit.

1. First, let’s consider the word, literally

What does it mean?  According to Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary: 1. in a literal way, using the ordinary and usual meaning of a word. 2. used to stress a statement/description that is true even though surprising. 3. in a completely accurate way.

Looking at it from this point, the most common misuse of the word would be confusing it with figuratively. Figuratively can be seen as the opposite of literally. Figurative language is creative, instead of using a word in its original way, we use it non-literally, in a way that’s untrue, usually in order to describe something else. There are different types of figurative language, but that will be in another post…

Consider the following video of Rachel Zoe, celebrity fashion stylist, and her complete misuse (and overuse) of the word literally. Hopefully you can see the issue with it. In the very first statement she says, “I literally want to cut myself in half.” If this were literal, then she REALLY wants to end her life, and is it even possible to cut yourself in half? A few seconds later she states, “I literally die for Paul McCartney.” Well, again this would be that if she met him, she would die. I don’t think anyone can actually die FOR someone, and just by meeting them? See for yourself the amount she can butcher the word in a 1:27 video clip: How many times did you count her use the word?

Courtesy Youtube channel: EngLangAUS

Not only can you misuse literally, you can overuse it, too. The Learner’s Dictionary also explains that this word can be used informally, to exaggerate information that couldn’t possibly be true. However, for some strange reason, this word has become popular, especially amongst those seen on T.V. (seen above).  If celebrities say it, it must be cool right? NOI think most individuals, especially those with their own intellectual thought processes can agree that it’s not okay, and actually quite annoying to hear. In fact, it was a friend who inspired to write the article based on his annoyance, and when I started to listen for it…. it literally blew my mind! Or wait, literally? No.. I meant to say, figuratively. 🙂

To show overuse, check out clips from T.V. show “Parks and Recreation.”

Courtesy Youtube channel: BuenozAres


2. Next, let’s look at vocalized pauses.

Vocalized pauses are the words used while speaking that are known as ‘fillers.’ These are the words like, “um” “er”  “uh” or popular for some, and our focus today:

1. “like”     2.  “I mean”      3.  “you know”

These words fill our sentences while speaking for numerous reasons. Sometimes they are natural, and part of our natural speech (to avoid sounding robotic), other times they happen because we get lost in thought, forget what we want to say, don’t know what to say, are nervous, etc… However, it can be mutually agreed that, when used too much, a person can sound unintelligent, or someone who lacks confidence.  The three words listed above are commonly used in film to represent the ditzy (dumb) girl, too-cool-for-school laid back stoners, or others similar. These representations aren’t always true, and yes it can be said that intelligent people use these words; however, stereotypes don’t exist entirely based on false information. Point of this message, avoid saying these words unless,

1. like:

  • you’re making it known what you enjoy, want, or prefer. (I like the color yellow.)
  • you’re using a preposition to compare similar things, describe something, or introduce examples. (This shirt looks a lot like this other one I am wearing.    OR    In college, I studied a lot of subjects like psychology, spanish, and sociology. )

2. I mean:

  • you’re giving a literal meaning of something, or clarifying information. (When I said, “it literally blew my mind,” I meant that it surprised me.)

3. you know:

  • when you’re forming a question, and what to know if the person listening is aware of some knowledge (Do you know this band?) 
  • I am going to say strongly avoid using it at the end of a sentence, there are so many other things you can say. (….do you understand? ….do you agree? … what do you think? …etc) 🙂 

When you find yourself wanting to use such words, pause, take a breath, and then continue your normal speech. Don’t fall into the routine of using  too much slang, or informal speech because you don’t always want to represent yourself in this manner. Be aware of your surroundings, and be aware of how you want to show yourself.

What other words do you hear that are overused, misused, or just get under your skin (bother/annoy you)? Tell me about them in the comments! If you like the article, please share! 

Happy Learning! ♥


Here’s another topic I found interested and related to this topic. The Wire writes, “What your crutch words say about you…” Find it here.


  1. Michael Lee on August 15, 2021 at 5:00 am

    Well, basically my verbal filler is the the word ‘basically’, basically. I do try and check myself and utilize a broader vocabulary. My excessive use of verbal fillers tends to occur when I feel under pressure to verbally ‘shoot from the hip’. Social situations where one is trying to impress or entertain are a killer for me.

  2. Tom on June 14, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    I have made up to 73 slashes for over use of “you know” listening to radio, TV interviews and phone conversations or 12 step group shares. Many people have heard this and perhaps unconsciously adopted it into their conversational patter. I think of it as a verbal virus. I ve heard writers, film makers, scientists, museum directors, Presidents and people in top positions repeat the words “you know” much too often. I have had to accept it but as an English major interested in writing and effective verbal communication, it’s a sad commentary on how mindless or unaware many people are.

  3. Luke on November 14, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    I’ve come across some people who say “like” or “you know” so much that if the words suddenly ceased to exist, they would hardly be able to speak, not that that’s a bad thing. I’m convinced that many people don’t listen to themselves and therefore don’t regulate their speech in any way, to the determent of those on the receiving end.

    • Jennifer on November 15, 2014 at 12:40 pm

      Youre right, Luke!

  4. Michel on May 14, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    In Brazil the most common english word that Brazilians overuse and misuse is “THAT”.

    I think this happens because in portuguese is common to use ” QUE “.

    I also think that each country has a english word used overuse and misuse.

    .If I made some mistake you can correct me.

  5. Park on May 12, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    When I said “You know”, I am looking for next words what I want to say and which words are accurate. As you know, I am not a native American speaks English very fluently. I need time to think about it what I should say English more correctly. It is a sort of delaying action in military.I avoid to saying “you know”,”like” nowadays. But it is not a piece of

    • Jennifer on May 16, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      Yes, Park it isn’t a piece of cake…but important! What’s the easiest way you avoid saying “you know” and “like” ?

      • Tom on November 17, 2015 at 1:04 pm

        How about just saying…”I’m thinking”

        • Jennifer on November 17, 2015 at 1:10 pm

          You could say “I’m thinking” but it’s a mouthful to say as a filler

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