Podcast Editing: Stuff I Cut From People's Speech
Updated: Mar 6, 2021
In total, I've probably edited around 100 podcast episodes. I consider my editing style to be detailed. I want everyone on the podcast to come across as clearly and professionally as possible. That's why, time allowing, I painstakingly edit out "um," "uh," loud breathing, and other verbal anomalies that might otherwise disrupt the listener's experience.
Aside from the fact that speakers use "uh" and "um" far (FAR) more than they realize, I've also noticed a verbal sort of tic. As I started paying attention more in day to day listening, it seems to me that women do this thing more than men.
Here's what happens...
A speaker will be asked a question, and then, as though thinking out loud, they will verbalize, "uuuuummmmmm," followed by a sort of puckering snap sound. And then they will proceed to verbalize their actual response in words.
I can't tell you how many times I've edited this out of episodes...
My neighbor happens to be a Linguistics doctoral candidate, so I sent him an example clip and asked him. Here's what he said:
There is no reason to think that it doesn't function like an exclamation. These typically allow a speaker to delay production because it delays articulation. It definitely would bolster your hypothesis if you also had evidence that people are thinking out loud while doing it. Here is a paper that might satisfy you.
Reference paper: Using uh and um in spontaneous speaking by Clark & Tree
For the lay person, my recommendation is to recognize (acknowledge?) that you are unaware of some of your verbal habits and then do something about it before going into a recorded interview. This isn't simply about making an editor's job easier. As an editor, there are some things I simply cannot "correct"- like when someone runs their "um" into the previous or following word syllables, making it impossible to cut without it sounding chopped off to the listener. My point is simply - if it's important to you to sound articulate, practice makes perfect.
For the linguistic community, I am sincerely hoping an academic will pick up this phenomenon of the "snap" used by (at minimum) various English speakers and give it a name, and some more context for understanding why people do it.