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26 Words (and Phrases) That Make You Sound Stupid

Big words, business jargon, and hyperbole intended to pump up your language only have the opposite affect. Check yourself before using any of these.

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"Irregardless"

There's no such word as "irregardless." The word you're looking for is "regardless." Here are 15 other words people say aren't real, even though they are.

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"Try and"

Although "try and" may feel like a natural thing to say, "try to" is grammatically correct. We should all try to use proper grammar if we want to sound smart.

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"Ain't"

Despite the fact that people have been using this word for around 250 years, it's best reserved for times when you want "to catch attention and to gain emphasis," according to Merriam Webster. "Although widely disapproved as nonstandard, and more common in the habitual speech of the less educated, ain't is flourishing in American English," says the dictionary.

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Overly-complicated phrases

Put away the thesaurus—using long, complicated words isn't a good way to impress people. The aptly-named study "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly," from Princeton University, concluded that using big words where simpler ones will do can lead people to think you're overcompensating. The research found that, in written work, language that makes it more difficult for the reader to understand the text lowers their opinion of the writer. And that's just one of the reasons why using big words doesn't make you sound smart.

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"Like"

Most of us don't realize just how often we use this word in everyday language. While it may seem like no big deal, this small thing can, like, totally give the wrong impression to people. Using it to punctuate your speech can conjure up images of Cher Horowitz from Clueless. So, like, check yourself the next time you're tempted to utter this extraneous word.

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"Literally"

Do you pepper your sentences with the word "literally"? You're not alone. This word is what's known as an "intensifier," which means that people use it to put more emphasis on what they are saying. For example, "I'm literally falling asleep" sounds stronger than "I'm falling asleep." There's just one problem. The word "literally" means that something is exact and true, so when you use it metaphorically you run the risk of sounding silly. Unless your eyes are shutting and you are literally falling asleep, don't say you are. (Because if you really are falling asleep, you wouldn't be talking or standing or sitting.)

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"Actually"

Similarly to "literally," many people use "actually" to put emphasis on their words. People use it when they're telling a story or exaggerating a situation: "It was actually the funniest thing that has ever happened." The problem is, the word leads the listener to believe that what you're saying is 100 percent true and not just hyperbole. If you use it every five minutes, you're either going to lead people to believe that your life is the most exciting thing in the world or, more likely, that you exaggerate too much.

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"Basically"

If you're already saying something in simple terms, you don't need to clarify that it's basic. Many of us are guilty of this one without realizing it. Saying "basically" at the start of every sentence shows that you are unsure of yourself. Worse still, it telescopes to the whole room that you're nervous; intelligent people don't need to use these crutches.

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"It's not rocket science"

No one is saying that it is rocket science. Ever. (Well, maybe Neil DeGrasse Tyson might.) People often use this particular line when describing something that's very simple. The problem is that it's become overused and can make the speaker sound unimaginative. In fact, this phrase is so hated, it made the list of "Top 10 Most Irritating Expressions in the English Language," according to University of Oxford researchers, as published in Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare. Don't miss the 33 middle school vocab words adults still get wrong.

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"I personally"

The main problem with this opening? It's completely unnecessary. When you're speaking, it's clear that what you're saying is your personal viewpoint. There's no need to highlight that fact. Simple. Check out more of the most annoying phrases in the English language.

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