6 Words and Phrases that Make You Sound Less Intelligent


All of us can fall into the habit of using pet words and phrases without considering that these are not the right words for every situation. Let’s look at 6 words and phrases to avoid using to keep from sounding less intelligent than you actually are!

Wise word usage advice

A wise man once told me that to have full command of any given language, one needs to know how to speak with words used by leaders and kings, common casual conversation and the gutter. Truer words were never spoken. Speaking the language of the gutter in a professional setting cannot only make you look less-than-educated, but also uncouth and crude. The bottom line is: Know your audience and know when to speak in their language.

Speak the language of your trade – but there’s a limit

I’ll add to the above, you also need to speak the language of those in your particular professional field. However, there is one caveat. Spewing too much jargon can actually make you sound less intelligent.

Big words = dumb.

Studies have found that people who use big words are actually observed by others as being less intelligent. The same is true for buzzwords. You can appear like you’re trying too hard. People prefer clarity. Being precise and fluent with a simpler vocabulary shows command of the language. When the less complicated version an explanation will do – use that. Use jargon only where it is absolutely necessary for specificity or because it is the only precise word that can be used to describe something.

6 words & phrases that makes your intelligence suspect

1. Irregardless

Some people think irregardless is a word and others say it isn’t. According to several dictionaries – irregardless– is a word. However, it’s an unnecessary one.

The word regardless already means what most people intend when they say irregardless, which is to “regard less,” or “without regard” or despite something.

Irregardless, is simply adding the prefixir- which is a negative prefix. Technically, you’re making a double-negative, and literally saying: “Without without regard.” The use of irregardless is unnecessary, awkward and should be avoided.

2. “I have a dumb question…”

This phrase or its closely related alternatives such as: “This is probably stupid, but…” or “This might sound silly” should never be used if your intention is to make a good impression. Why? First off, such phrases are referring to yourself as dumb, stupid, or silly. The reason many of us use these phrases is protective. We think if we start the phrase off with a disclaimer then people won’t think of us as dumb, stupid or silly. It just doesn’t work that way. If you need to ask the question – just ask it.

3. Utilized

Utilized is the showoff’s version of simply saying used. This is using a ten dollar word when a one dollar word will do. Rather than making you you appear smarter, you come off as trying too hard and a bit pompous.

4. Gifted

“My secret Santa gifted me a ten dollar Starbucks card,” someone might say after the office holiday gift exchange. This kind of phrase is one big mess. First of all, this is trying to turn an adverb into a verb, when what you received was a gift, which is a noun. People with talent are gifted, people might be born with a gifted voice. But someone giving you a giftdoes not mean that you were gifted. This is another version of trying too hard to sound smart. Simply say someone gave you a gift.

5. I perused it

Where this phrase is often misused commonly is with a statement such as: “I was short on time and did not get to review the report thoroughly, so I just perused it.”

However, that is not the definition of peruse, which is:

1a. : to examine or consider with attention and in detail : study

1b. : to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner

2. : read; especially : to read over in an attentive or leisurely manner

As you now understand, many people use this word incorrectly to indicate that they only vaguely or half-heartedly reviewed something. When peruseis used in the truest sense, it should mean that they were quite engaged in reviewing and spent time in doing so.

6. Baby talk words

Referring to yourself as “mommy,” “daddy,” “mommies,” “daddies,” or even calling pets “furbabies” and the like should be avoided in the professional setting. The best way to sound like a smart adult is to speak like one using adult words. Is best to save the baby talk for home or when talking to like-minded people away from work, in casual settings, and at the dog park or pet store.