12 Phrases That Are Making You Sound Ignorant
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
How you communicate with others, whether if it’s through speech or written text, influences how others perceive and evaluate you as a professional.
According to Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job, "Your ability to articulate your thoughts and ideas will have a direct correlation to how well you garner cooperation and persuade others to support your efforts and projects."
"The words you choose also convey your emotional intelligence,” adds Taylor.
Whether you’re communicating with a co-partner, client, team member, investor, or industry influencer, the language that you use has the power to make or break those relationships. So, to ensure that strengthen those relationships, here are 12 phrases to avoid because they make you come across as ignorant.
1. “I’ll have an expresso.”
Want to start your day with a jolt? Order an espresso, and not this non-existent drink. You’ll not only get your morning-caffeine fix, you won’t embarrass yourself in front of your local barista, the other people standing-in-line, and any other members of your party - like that high-profile client you’ve been trying to impress.
2. “Well, that’s ironic.”
I’m going to go out on a limb and thank Alanis Morrisette for the misuse of irony. For example, if you arrived at a meeting and Jim from accounting is wearing the exact same tie as you, that’s not ironic. It’s a coincidence. If Jim referred you to his dentist, and the dentist has terrible teeth, that’s ironic.
Remember, a coincidence is whenever two unlikely activities share similarities, like breaking your arm before the rock-climbing company retreat. Irony is when there’s some type of reversal of what was expected. Situational irony would then be when an outcome turned out differently than you expected, like that dentist with the bad teeth. Verbal irony is when an individual says one thing but means another, like “It’s my day. I lost my wallet.”
3. “I was kinda, sorta, hoping we could discuss this in-person.”
"Kinda," and it’s twin "sorta," are just shortened versions of the phrases “kind of” and “sort of.” While kinda and sorta could work during a casual conversation with a friend, and even when battling an opponent during scrabble, these slang terms shouldn’t be used in your writing or when speaking to colleagues.
Even if you don’t shorten “kind of” and “sort of,” Steven Kurutz of The New York Times argues that these phrases have “become a verbal tic, a filler phrase” that we use whenever we’re unsure. So, if you’re 100 percent positive when making a statement, just kinda, sorta, avoid these phrases altogether.
I couldn’t help but chuckle during this exchange between Representative Mark Sanford and a constituent;
“Irregardless —” Sanford began, during a debate on pre-existing conditions.
“Irregardless is not a word!” a man cried.
“Regardless,” Sanford amended.
Here’s the thing. Irregardless is a word. So, who’s more ignorant? Stanford for making amends? Or, the man who believed that irregardless isn’t a word? Regardless, and the debate surrounding this word is heated, with many frowning upon anyone who uses “irregardless.” And, it’s easy to see why. “Irregardless” is a nonstandard word and does have that whole double-negative thing going against it. Additionally, when this word is uttered, it’s during a dialogue with someone else and not in written text.
To avoid any debates, it’s best to just avoid using this word. But, if you accidentally do, at least you know that it is in fact a real word.
5. “No worries/ No problem.”
These phrases are being used to replace “You’re welcome” or “It’s my pleasure.” While it’s not the end-of-the-word if you say “No problem” or the Australian-version, “No worries,” whenever someone says “Thank you,” it’s a pet peeve among many professionals. In fact, many of them consider these phrases inappropriate.
When you start a sentence with this word it can come across as if you’re criticizing the other party, you are making an excuse, or you're defensive. For example, if you were asked, “Do you have the slideshow presentation for the meeting tomorrow?” You began to respond with, “Actually... Jess has it.”
Even if you are being polite, adding an “actually” to the beginning of your sentences is unnecessary. If you were asked if you want a cup of coffee you could simply respond with “I would rather have tea.”
7. “I did what I was suppose to.”
You’re not correctly using the word “suppose” in this phrase. It should be “supposed.” "I did what I was supposed to." Don’t forget to insert the "d" sound whenever you say this phrase. To avoid the confusion, say, "I did what I was asked to do," or "I did what was expected."
8. "I didn't have time to really analyze the agreement, so I just perused it."
Here’s the proper definition of peruse:
to examine or consider with attention and in detail
to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner
Does that sound like an indication you’ve read something quickly or glanced over a document?
Replace peruse with terms like “glimpsed,” “peeked,” “looked,” or “glanced.” So that statement above would now become, "I didn't have time to really analyze the agreement, so I just glanced over it."
It’s easy to misuse “i.e.” and “e.g.” Both are abbreviations of Latin terms that are similar. But, here’s the difference. I.e. stands for id est and roughly translates into "that is,” while e.g. stands for exempli gratia, which means “for example.”
If you’re confused, think of e.g. as "example given" and i.e. as "in essence."
It’s early, and factors beyond anyone’s control (e.g., the euro, Iran) could impact the race. [Washington Post]
In 2005, America had the lowest personal savings rate since 1933. In fact it was outright negative — i.e., consumers spent more money than they made. [Chicago Tribune]
10. “You look tired.”
“Tired people are incredibly unappealing -- they have droopy eyes and messy hair, they have trouble concentrating, and they’re as grouchy as they come,” writes Dr. Travis Bradberry. “Telling someone he looks tired implies all of the above and then some.”
Instead you should ask, “Is everything okay?” According to Bradberry, “Most people ask if someone is tired because they’re intending to be helpful (they want to know if the other person is okay). Instead of assuming someone’s disposition, just ask. This way, he can open up and share. More importantly, he will see you as concerned instead of rude.”
11. “Let’s nip that in the butt.”
The correct phrase here is "nip it in the bud.” It has it’s origins from gardening because whenever you nip something in the bud you’re stopping it before it has the chance to flower. Nipping something in the butt, then, is meaningless - unless you're a dog chasing the mailman.
12. Big words.
No one is questioning your intelligence. But, studies have found that when you use big words you look, well, stupid. Even if you’re using the word correctly, others may think that you’re not as smart as you're trying to be. You’re better off sticking with simple words. This will demonstrate that you not only have mastery over the English language, but that you know what you’re talking about because you’re an expert and not just faking it.