I've been getting sick these past few weeks. Not from a virus, fungus or flu. Instead, my illness is verbal and it has only one symptom: "like."

Normally, this word is a noun that indicates appreciation of something ("I really like your dress"), a preposition ("Those shoes look like mine"), or a different way to say "for example" ("Swiss artists like Giacometti and Hodler"). Yet we are also forced to suffer from its awkward intrusion into our language, both written and spoken.

Similarly to "you know," "um" and other useless fillers, the incorrect use of the word "like" does not improve sentences or make ideas any clearer.

Then why do we use it? "Like" is a word that means absolutely nothing and it adds nothing to what we are saying. It should come as no surprise that we even developed a phrase—"filler words"—to define this ever-widening spectrum of meaningless sounds.

Is it so strange that we should want to improve our manner of speaking? Hardly.

The first step in winning this battle begins with the elimination of these redundant filler sounds. It doesn't take much—just consider what you want to say carefully, as the disease only manifests itself when you speak before thinking. Filler doesn't appear in your written work for precisely this reason, so it cannot require a big leap to step from how you write to how you speak.

I don't mean to encourage speaking with affected language. Nothing in the battle against "like" prevents you from speaking normal conversational English. All that is required of you is to be more thoughtful in your choice of words and the way in which you choose to deliver them.

I am fully aware that this is an uphill battle and that my chances of success in converting you are low. Filler is pervasive, regardless of origin, class or age. It doesn't only affect students, as one professor made quite clear a few weeks ago through her use of empty words. Yet this does not mean that we should not try.

So I'd like to issue a challenge: when you're speaking, be it in class, with your friends, with President Mills or Randy Nichols, take your time to think about what you want to say and try to eliminate those pesky fillers. If you do use "like" where it doesn't syntactically belong, make a mental note and think hard about how you can avoid bringing the word up again.

Jean-Paul Honegger is a member of the Class of 2015.