37 words and phrases you're using at work that make you sound dumb

How you communicate with others at work plays a big role in how you’re perceived, your capacity to move projects forward, your ability to generate trust, and how quickly you advance in your career.

That’s according to Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job.”

“Your ability to articulate your thoughts and ideas well have a direct correlation to how well you garner cooperation and persuade others to support your efforts and projects,” she says.

“The words you choose also convey your emotional intelligence.”

Your verbal communications can make or break your relationship with your boss, team, clients, business partners, and your industry network. And if you use language that dumbs you down, you may be misunderstood by those around you at work, which can significantly hurt your ability to advance.

“A well-spoken person never goes out of style,” says Taylor. “While it can be tempting to use shortcuts when speaking, go into slang mode, or just follow the crowd, you should try not to.”

Using the following words and terms can chip away at your professional image, she says. “We’re all capable of falling into these traps, but the trick is to catch yourself and avoid making them a habit.”

Here are 37 words and phrases we all use from time to time that may be dumbing us down:


'This is part of a 'set' or family that goes with 'Totally,' 'Like' and 'Um.' A family that no one wants to visit,' says Taylor.

'Chill out'

First of all, you almost never want to tell your boss or colleague to 'relax' or 'calm down' because nobody likes hearing that. But if you're going to do it, don't use the phrase 'chill out.'

It's just obnoxious and unprofessional.


'It just doesn't convey a high degree of intelligence,' Taylor says. 'You'll be seen as far more credible when you're direct and speak professionally.'

'OMG, shut up!' or 'No, stop it!'

You never want to use this to tell someone to be quiet at work -- but that's not even what we're talking about here.

If you're genuinely surprised or excited by something at work, there are better ways to express your those feelings than saying something dumb like, 'Shut up?!?!'

Instead, try 'Wow, that's great!' or 'I'm so thrilled about this opportunity!'

'[email protected]%&$'

Avoid vulgar language and profanities at work. They're unprofessional and dumb you down.

'Having a trash mouth never got anyone promoted, and can get you into trouble at work. Save it for your ride home (unless you take mass transit),' Taylor says.


If you're trying to say 'me, too' then say 'me, too.'

'Oh my God!'

There are many better, smarter ways to express your shock or excitement.

'My bad' or 'oopsies'

These are two of the worst ways to own up to or acknowledge a mistake at work.

Go with the most straightforward and professional version: 'That was my mistake. I'm sorry.'


Chances are, you're not using it correctly, and you'll just sound dumb when you say it.


'Another classic that hasn't parted from today's jargon, but can be reminiscent of walking through a mall bursting with teen drama,' says Taylor.

'For sure'

How about 'yes'? The phrase 'for sure' will make you sound immature and, well, kind of dumb.

'No worries'

'I have fallen prey to this, and it's not a big offender,' Taylor admits. 'But when it's used to replace 'you're welcome,' I fear that 'you're welcome' will fade into old English oblivion.'


It's great to be happy at work. But when you're particularly excited or proud of something, don't yell out 'booyah!' It's annoying for so many reasons.

'Dude,' 'man,' or 'bro'

No, no, no.

Don't refer to your male colleagues as 'dude' or 'man' or worst of all, 'bro.' Just ... don't.

'Chicks' or 'girls'

The same goes for 'chicks' and 'girls.' It's highly offensive and inappropriate, even if you're a woman referring to other women this way.


'Granted, it could be a lot worse,' she says. 'But this is one of those words that has gotten so overused, that when you say, 'That's awesome,' it's almost like saying, 'Nice ... what else?''

'Whattup?' or 'sup?'

Stop with the slang. You're not a teenager instant-messaging your BFF on AIM.

'Um' or 'uh'

We understand you sometimes use these as filler words when you're nervous, and you may feel like you can't control the number of 'ums' and 'uhs' you use on a daily basis, but you can!

Overusing these words will make you sound less competent and can kill your credibility, so you'll want to pay attention to how frequently you use them, and take the right steps to stop saying them forever.


'This makes you wonder how much productivity time in corporate America could be gained if this useless word could be 'literally' banished,' Taylor says.

'Spoiler alert'

This phrase can sometimes be funny or cute, but it often comes off as cheesy, which can make you seem a little less intelligent.


This is, like, another filler word you'll want to stop using, like, immediately.


Do we really need to explain this one?

'Yup,' 'yah,' 'nope,' and 'nah'

It's 'yes' and 'no.' That's all.


'No one really needs to shout if they're congratulating you,' Taylor says. 'So let's put this phrase to rest.'

'I know, riiight?!'

'This phrase seems to have lost some of its allure from a couple years ago, thankfully,' she says. 'Well-meaning people use it and they're trying to be very agreeable. But when it's virtually in every other sentence, it can seem hollow and irritating.'

Misused words

If you're not sure, don't use it.

'It can be fun to use a great, descriptive word you recently heard, but check with dictionary.com first,' Taylor advises.

Made-up words

Just ... don't.

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