11 Words and Phrases Smart People Never, Ever Use

If you're smart, or at least want to sound intelligent, remember that some things are better left unsaid.

"You look tired!"

01-Words-and-Phrases-Smart-People-Never-UseNicole Fornabaio/rd.comYou may be trying to be sympathetic, but pointing out that someone looks tired is just another way of saying "Wow, you look like crap!" Nobody wants to hear it, and saying it just makes you sound insensitive (and even flat-out rude). The same goes for "Did you lose weight?" Even if it's the truth, you're basically pointing out to the person that you noticed how fat they used to be. Bad idea! In both cases, a sincere "How are you?" is better. Someone who's legitimately tired can talk about the new baby or puppy that's keeping them up all night (by the way, here's how much sleep you're actually losing with a new baby), if they want to; someone who's lost weight can say "I feel great since I lost 20 pounds!" Either way, you're letting the person you're speaking with direct the conversation, so you're less likely to step on their toes.

"I utilized my phone."

02-Words-and-Phrases-Smart-People-Never-UseNicole Fornabaio/rd.comNope, you just used it. Spouting a 50-cent word when a 10-center will do doesn't make you sound smarter. It makes you sound like you're trying too hard. Stick to clear, simple terms and you'll give the impression that you know what you're talking about. Of course, it doesn't hurt to improve your vocabulary—as long as you keep your speeches short and sweet.

"I can't."

03-Words-and-Phrases-Smart-People-Never-UseNicole Fornabaio/rd.comEspecially in the workplace, this one's an indicator that you lack either know-how, motivation, or both. "I'll try" gives off the same vibe: Why limit yourself to trying, when you should be doing? So if you're asked to do something unfamiliar or intimidating, don't give up before you've even started. A smart person wouldn't! She'd figure it out, even if she needed help to do so. There's no shame in asking for assistance so you can get something done, and done right. Don't miss these other things you should never, ever say to your boss.

"I gave her my best advise."

04-Words-and-Phrases-Smart-People-Never-UseNicole Fornabaio/rd.comYou can advise someone, but you can't give advise—only advice. Watch out for false friends like these, which can make you sound less smart than you really are. Some common trip-ups include adverse vs. averse (the first one usually means unfavorable, as in "adverse market conditions"; the second one means feeling opposed, such as "I am averse to giving anyone unsolicited advice"); continuously vs. continually (without ever stopping vs. repeatedly); and farther vs. further (the first one is about physical distance, while the second is about figurative distance). Following grammar rules will also automatically make you sound smart!

Content continues below ad

"Any other mommies feel this way?"

05-Words-and-Phrases-Smart-People-Never-UseNicole Fornabaio/rd.comIf you want to sound like a smart adult, don't talk like a little kid! Save the baby talk for your actual baby. Referring to yourself or anyone else as "mommy," "daddy," or "honey bunny" should be reserved for family members, at home. And yes, that includes calling your pets "furbabies." Love them and be proud of them, of course, but unless you're at the dog park or pet store with fellow animal lovers, stick with grown-up words. Here are 50 things your pet wishes it could tell you. 

"That's not fair."

06-Words-and-Phrases-Smart-People-Never-UseNicole Fornabaio/rd.comSpeaking of baby talk: Crying foul over something you feel is unfair can very easily make you sound immature or whiny, not smart. Standing up to real injustice is smart and admirable. But your tone matters. Try something like, "I think it would be more equitable if we did it this way." And be sure to propose a solution, instead of just fussing and foot-stomping.

"Whatever!"

07-Words-and-Phrases-Smart-People-Never-UseNicole Fornabaio/rd.comSaying "whatever" or "I don't care," even in a pleasant tone, makes you sound less than smart because it implies that you don't have any thoughts at all. Nothing intelligent about that! Even if you're just trying to go with the flow, you can still contribute to the discussion. If you have an opinion, share it politely. If you truly aren't sure about something, ask questions and seek more information until you can give a thoughtful, useful response.

"We've always done it this way."

08-Words-and-Phrases-Smart-People-Never-UseNicole Fornabaio/rd.comSmart people are open to new ideas and suggestions. Sticking to a method or process just because it's familiar makes you look more stubborn and close-minded that smart. Whether you're at work, a volunteer organization, or your child's school, it's wise to be willing to listen when someone presents an opportunity for improvement. They just might be right! And don't miss this list of other annoying phrases you should strike from your vocabulary ASAP.

Content continues below ad

"It's not my fault!"

09-Words-and-Phrases-Smart-People-Never-UseNicole Fornabaio/rd.comJust like saying "it's not fair," announcing you couldn't possibly be wrong or at fault ends up making you sound defensive and immature. Similarly, claiming "that's not my job" gives the impression that you're not a team player. In the workplace, if there's a problem, don't back away and avoid blame. Even if the issue really isn't your fault or your job, you'll look much smarter if you pitch in and help.

"I have a dumb question."

10-Words-and-Phrases-Smart-People-Never-UseNicole Fornabaio/rd.comTo sound smart, don't call yourself dumb right off the bat. There's no shame in asking a question. Own it. The same goes for sharing a suggestion or idea. Don't undermine yourself by starting with "This might sound silly" or "This is probably stupid, but..." Have confidence, or at least fake it! You'll sound much wiser, no matter what your question or opinion might be. Here are 10 words you shouldn't say in a job interview.

"He gifted me this necklace."

11-Words-and-Phrases-Smart-People-Never-UseNicole Fornabaio/rd.comStick with "He gave me this necklace." It means the same thing, without needlessly converting a noun into a verb. Another frequent offender in this vein is "impact." Instead of "The storm impacted my commute," it's better (and smarter) to say "The storm affected my commute" or even "The storm had a big impact on my commute."

View as Slideshow

Become more interesting every week!

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.