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A recent post on called sellers and other people who pitch ideas (marketers, media professionals) to task for the use of the word actually. The author, Eric V.Holtzclaw, states “’actually’ is a dead giveaway of an area that at the least needs to be further investigated, and may point at a deception.”

I’m not sure I’d go that far. To say that actually may point to deception is to ascribe motivation, and by implication, intent.

But I will say that actuallyfalls into a category that I call “pacemakers.” These are words that we use to pace our speech so that we can make our “close” at the point that feels most natural.

True, the word actuallyshould be used to refer to something that is a fact. Used properly its purpose is to change a perception from one that is incorrect to one that is based in fact.

For example, “I did go shopping yesterday, but actually I didn’t shop downtown. I shopped at the mall.”

However, we use it more as filler—to give our speech a cadence that we feel is more natural and comfortable.

Teenagers do this all the time when they pepper their speech with words such as “like” or “anything,” or “you know.” As in “I did go shopping, like yesterday. But I went, you know, to the mall, not, like downtown, or anything.”

Unless we're going for the Valley Girl effect, we use pacemakers as we search for our normal speaking pattern and rhythm. The question is why we do that. The answer is because we either lack confidence in ourselves as speakers or in our message or pitch to a particular audience.

The way to overcome the need for pacemakers is to be thoroughly familiar with your material, whether it’s a sales pitch, a media pitch, or an answer to your parents’ question of where you took the car yesterday.

(For information on how to prepare a pitch scroll down to our January 20 post, “Magic Time.”)

 Perfecting your pitch or any public presentation requires thorough familiarity with you material and with your audience. But it’s that familiarity that breeds confidence. And it’s that confidence that eliminates the need for pacemakers.

Give it a try.