In an age of emojis, declining newspaper circulation and people trying to get their points made in 140 characters or less, it’s fair to say that words don’t carry as much weight as they once did. But that doesn’t mean improving your vocabulary won’t help you out immensely. Or that you’re not unknowingly using terms or phrases you wish you weren’t. Some words, like “that” or “really” are more innocuous, while others such as “you know” (or maybe “douchebag”) are just unnecessary. If you don’t know which word you overuse, just ask someone close to you. They’ll likely know. The good news is that you can rewire your language habits to both sound and feel more intelligent and confident. Here are a few suggestions on which words to drop.
It’s an essential word, but “that” is often unnecessary or redundant—especially in the written form. Take a closer look at any email or document you’ve just written, and find a sentence containing “that.” Try reading it without the “that.” If the sentence works without it, delete it. Also keep in mind: When referring to people, don’t use “that.” You don’t know people that live in that city. You know people who live in that city.
When you keep saying “you know?” at the end of each sentence or use the phrase as a filler or substitute for saying “um” in between ideas, you sound uninformed or unsure of yourself and the facts you’re presenting. Don’t introduce doubt in your audience by saying “you know” multiple times. Slow down and stick with the facts.
There’s no need to use “really” to modify an adjective. Or a verb. Or an adverb. Pick a different word (i.e. incredibly, immensely or genuinely) to make your point. And if you do use the word never repeat it to make a stronger point. That’s just really, really weak.
You went to Vegas? You went to that university? Or did you road trip with some buddies? Graduated from their business school? There are any number of ways to convey moving from here to there or attending something—don’t miss out on a chance to add such crucial details when telling someone a story.
This one’s a common filler word and whether you’re saying it out loud or writing it down, the word “just” often makes your sentence weaker, not stronger. Unless you’re using it as a synonym for fair or impartial, don’t use it.
This one’s not so bad, but unfortunately it’s been co-opted by so many people who misuse it (when what they really mean is figuratively) that it’s hard to take anyone who uses the term these days seriously. We’d suggest avoiding it when possible to sidestep any assumptions that you’re speaking in hyperbole instead of truly trying to convey a literal statement.
No offense to all the teenagers out there, but most grown men don’t want to sound like a teen when explaining something or telling a story. But that’s just what you sound like when you pepper conversation with the word. Or use it as a stand-in for the word “said.” Jon was not like, “See you tomorrow.” Jon said, “See you tomorrow.”