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16 Things Not To Say at Work to Sound Smarter

16 Things Not To Say at Work to Sound Smarter

Communication plays a significant role in how you’re perceived, and it affects your ability to move projects forward. Some language dumbs you down or undermines your meaning, and those around you could misunderstand you. Therefore, we have listed some things not to say at work to make you sound smarter and more professional.

Things Not to Say At Work

Author Lynn Taylor puts it this way:

“Your ability to articulate your thoughts and ideas will have a direct correlation to how well you garner cooperation and persuade the team to support your efforts and projects.”

Compare these two sentences:

  • I think I can make it to the airport on time.
  • I KNOW I can make it to the airport on time.

Subtle differences in language can have a huge impact.

A professional showing thumbs up when avoid things not to say at work
Avoid things not to say at work makes you o sound smart and help your career

If you want to become more successful, improve your personal brand, make a habit of talking and thinking smarter, so here are some common things not to say at work.

1) At The End Of The Day

A man clapping his hands
At the end of the day

“At the end of the day” – what does it mean?

This is an overused cliché. It was fresh once, but no more.

Now it muddies the water (See that? Another tired cliché!) Use precise phrases. At least “the bottom line” has some meaning if you’re referring to whether something is going to make money.

2) If Our Competitors Don’t Have It, We Don’t Need It

One of the important things not to say at work, copying competitors is never a winning strategy.

Think about it: if you can figure out what competitors aren’t doing, you can fill that niche.

Two men arm wrestling
If our competitors don’t have it, we don’t need it

Innovation comes from looking at the flip side, and you shouldn’t utter these words to yourself, forget speaking them out loud in front of your colleagues. The whole purpose of observing competitors is trying to go one better.

3) This Is The Way It’s Always Been Done

Some phrases instantly change the way people see us. They cast us in a negative light. This phrase makes you sound lazy and resistant to change. Technology is changing fast. Things current six months ago are now passé.

Three professionals talking
This is the way it’s always been done

If you ARE doing things as they’ve always been done, there probably is a better way. Even if you aren’t sure what that new way is, try to sound like you’re looking for it. Have the hunger to transform for the better and display it with what you say.

4) No Problem

This implies the request was a problem. It makes people feel they have made an imposition. Try saying, “It was my pleasure,” or “I’ll be happy to take care of it “. This change will have a significant impact.

Woman smiling
It’s my pleasure will sound much better to your colleague than no problem

Even the mention of a problem relating to a task given to you might not sound bad, but it does have a subconscious effect on the listener. Moreover, it shows a lack of commitment and makes you sound like you are doing the other person’s big favor.

5) “I’m Going To Ask A Stupid Question” Or “This May Be A Silly Idea”

These phrases erode credibility. No matter how good the idea, people will have lost confidence in it. If you’re not confident in your opinion, no one else will be either.

Woman professional listening to her male colleague
This may be a silly idea

So, if you have something to share or have an idea that you deem to be necessary, say, “I was wondering if we can do this,” or say, “I have an idea that I wished to share”.

The trick is to neither sound overconfident nor too unsure about the idea with these things not to say at work.

6) Just

However, it is one of the shortest things not to say at work, and this word instantly minimizes your statements’ power. It makes you seem defensive or apologetic.

Words and Phrases to Avoid at Work
“Just”makes the sentence look weaker

Saying, “I just wanted to check in,” comes across as “Sorry for taking up your time.” It sounds like you feel you’re bugging them. Scan your emails and text and delete any instances of “just.” Notice how much stronger most statements sound: “I wanted to check-in.”

7) Honestly

Honestly is used to add emphasis. The problem is, if you say a statement is honest, you imply the rest aren’t!

Honestly, in a sentence implies the rest you said was not honest?

Let the listener be the judge of what you say or whether or not you mean it. The more emphasis you will lay on being authentic and honest about your statements, the less convinced the listener becomes. Moreover, this phrase sounds like an unnecessary addition to sentences owing to overuse.

8) Absolutely

Adding this word to a sentence is redundant. Take the phrase “Necessary.” Necessary means that it’s necessary.

Adding absolutely doesn’t make it more so. It is one of those phrases that sound okay, but there is a fundamental mistake in tautology. This is another such addition to a sentence that is not required and sounds quite bad.

9) Amazing defines the word “amaze” as “to overwhelm with surprise or sudden wonder; astonish greatly.”

Synonyms include astounding, marvelous, astonishing, extraordinary, exceptional, dumbfound, and stun.

Unfortunately, the word “amazing” is everywhere. Is EVERYTHING amazing?

A woman coming out of a colorful wardrobe with amazement
Amazing has lost power. Enriching your vocabulary can be a good idea

“Amazing” has lost its power. The view from the Great Wall of China is amazing, not your colleague’s new tie or her new hairstyle. Make sure you don’t start using such powerful words for ordinary exclamations without noticing how silly it sounds.

10) “Irregardless”

Did you know that many dictionaries don’t even include “irregardless” as a word? It’s a non-standard version of the word “regardless.” It’s best to avoid using it unless you want to open yourself up to the debate of whether it’s a word.

A girl reading dictionary
Is “irregardless” a word?

It is also considered a double-negative. Double negatives are an entire subject by themselves! Say “regardless”, and you can avoid the debate. So, some things not to say at work really do have fundamental mistakes in them.

11) As I Said Before

This sounds like you’re insulted at having to repeat yourself. Instead, restate your message in another manner in interesting way.

A professional pointing finger
As I said before

It will help people remember what you said without you coming off as somebody who didn’t want to repeat what he said. Well, maybe you didn’t want to repeat it, but you surely cannot tell them that or show it on your face.

You said it before, but you have no problem presenting it to them again with a lot more clarity and equal enthusiasm. This should be your stance.

12) Let’s Nip That In The Butt

The correct phrase is “nip it in the bud.” In gardening, when you nip something in the bud, you’re stopping it before it flowers. Nipping something in the bud only applies if your dog is chasing the mailman. If this realization is jaw-dropping for you, well, it is never too late to stop making slight mistakes that can change the meaning entirely.

13) I Don’t Have Enough Time To Talk Right Now

You receive an official call, and you are not in the mood to speak or busy, let it go to your voicemail. Do not try to be honest because, more often than not, honesty sounds rude, a lot more than you think.

Two professionals sitting quietly
I don’t have enough time to talk right now

You will understand why it isn’t wise to say these words to a colleague if you’ve been on the receiving end.

You can instead choose to say, “Would you mind if I call back in a few minutes?”. This way, you can buy yourself time without having to be abruptly honest and too literal with your expression.

14) I Will Try To

As soon as you utter this meek, under-confident phrase, the person loses trust in you. Now, if you do the task given to you, it would come to him as a surprise.

A man looking at his display board
I will try to

This is because “I will try to” doesn’t portray surety or confidence but helplessness and self-doubt. It conveys to the listener that you deem yourself to be somebody who can only try to do the task, not someone who will surely do it.

15) I Think That

This is another thing not to say at work, which makes you look underconfident and unsure of yourself.

A baby wearing spectacles with a thinking cloud above his head
I think that

By starting your sentences with these words, you do not sound like Socrates; you sound like a person who is too afraid to be sure of anything. “I think..” leaves room for you being wrong and conveys to the listener that you’re too scared to be incorrect.

Hence, you’re already claiming your point to be a mere thought rather than an assertion owing to the lack of confidence.

16) It’s Not Fair

It isn’t a problem if you utter these words to your elder brother after he beats you at paintball, but not at work.

A woman sitting with a professional with shocked expression on her face
It’s not fair

Life is unfair, and there are no two ways about it being so. As a professional who is ever-ready to compete, “It’s not fair” is a big NO, along with other such cries of a complaint.


It’s never okay to use vulgar language or profanity at work. It’s unprofessional and dumbs you down. Author Ann Taylor provides this suggestion: “Having a trash mouth never got anyone promoted, and can get you into trouble at work.

A woman keeping her ears closed
Do not bad mouth

Save it for your ride home (unless you take mass transit.) In every sense of the word, what is “vulgar” that isn’t for the workplace?

If you are in the habit of casually saying such words, it doesn’t make you cool just because your colleagues have a good laugh. It is uncalled for in a work environment and makes you look like a fool more often than not.

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