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Stop Using These Phrases to Sound Instantly Smarter

Let's try to remove literally from your vocabulary.

Though the English language contains hundreds of thousands of words, there are certain expressions and phrases that tend to pop up more often than others—some of which are bound to make you sound annoying, at best, and less intelligent, at worst. For instance, "with all due respect" and "going forward" are unnecessary utterances that more often than not just show you're trying too hard. And other words and phrases—like "try and" and "literally"—are just plain incorrect.

To make sure you're giving off the impression that you're as intelligent as we know you are, it's time to cut some choice words out of your vocabulary. Here are the phrases you should stop using if you want to sound smarter. And for more language we've left behind, here are 150 Slang Terms From the 20th Century No One Uses Anymore.

"Try and"

Don't ever tell someone to "try and" do anything. What you should be telling them is to "try to" do something, which is the grammatically correct version of this phrase. Replacing "and" with "to" might not seem like it would be noticeable, but people will definitely take note of whether or not you're using proper English.

"I mean"

The phrase "I mean" is primarily used in conversation as a filler phrase, which is to say that it doesn't do anything except mark a hesitation. It's the "umm" of the 21st century. If you want people to respect you as an orator, then you should avoid filler phrases and instead, simply own the natural pauses in conversation. And for more slip-ups to avoid, check out these 23 Grammatical Mistakes Everyone Makes All the Time.


One of the words that you absolutely need to stop using is "like," at least when you're using it in a way that adds absolutely nothing to a conversation. Examples of usage to avoid include "I just, like, don't understand" and, "I told her I had to leave and she was all, like, angry about it." (Not the most eloquent, right?)


This phrase is the kiss of death in a spat between spouses, and a cold shrug of the shoulders in an email exchange between coworkers. Though saying "whatever" was once considered passive aggressive, the hostility of the word at this point is so well-known that your intentions are as clear as day. Saying what you mean and how you feel instead makes you a much smarter and more capable communicator.


People from all walks of life use the word literally in order to emphasize what they're saying. For instance, you might hear someone say that they "literally might pass out from exhaustion." However, despite the fact that it's so widespread, this is unfortunately not the right way to use the word literally. Unless you are referring to something that is true and real—which is what literally means—versus metaphorical, then you shouldn't be using this adverb.


According to Merriam-Webster, the word actually means "in act" or "in fact." Therefore, it doesn't make much sense to use this word to exaggerate a situation. Unless what you're saying is actually the greatest thing that's ever happened to you or you're actually having the worst day of your life, it's best not to bring this adverb into conversation. And once you've eliminated these words from your vocabulary, brush up on these 50 Everyday Sayings Everyone Gets Wrong.

"Me personally"

Starting off a sentence with the phrase "me personally" is just unnecessary and grammatically incorrect. If you're voicing your opinions or concerns, then it's obvious that what you're saying is from your perspective. Ditch the "personally" or make the "me" an "I" and you'll sound smarter instantly.

"Fairly unique"

How can something be only fairly unique? By definition, something that's unique is one of a kind. To describe a shirt, a song, or anything else as "fairly unique" would simply be inaccurate. This just sounds like you're trying too hard to appear intelligent—and unfortunately, it's not working.

"Give 110 percent"

Sure, most people are going to understand that you're not being literal when you say that you're giving something "110 percent." However, that doesn't make this phrase any less ignorant-sounding since doing so is impossible. In fact, when OnePoll and Jive Communications teamed up to survey 2,000 office workers, they found that "give 110 percent" was the single-most cringeworthy phrase a person could use at the office. And if you want people to perceive you as a smart and effective colleague, then familiarize yourself with these 40 Workplace Habits You Need to Drop By 40.

"Going forward"

If you're instructing someone to do something, then it's clear that you're telling them to do it henceforth. To include the phrase "going forward" in any sort of communication—and in the workplace especially—just makes you look passive aggressive, a little condescending, and not particularly intelligent.

"At the end of the day"

Back in 2008, a group of researchers from the University of Oxford released a list of the Top 10 Most Irritating Expressions in the English language in a book titled Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare. As part of their research, the authors kept track of overused phrases found in books, magazines, and online, thus equating both overuse and misuse with irritation. Sitting in the No. 1 spot on their list was "at the end of the day." So, at the end of the day, you might want to ditch this phrase as well.

"No offense, but"

When you start a sentence with the phrase "no offense, but," it is almost guaranteed that what you're about to utter has the potential to offend whomever is on the receiving end. Couching cruelty with "no offense" doesn't serve much of a purpose—except to make you sound less intelligent. If you ever find yourself so much as thinking this phrase, then you should stop yourself from saying it as well as whatever offensive comment or quip you were going to follow it with. And for more ways to ensure polite and proper conversation, read up on these 20 Things You're Saying You Didn't Know Were Offensive.

"With all due respect"

"With all due respect" is almost as bad as "no offense" in that it similarly conveys a offensiveness. Unsurprisingly, this phrase rounded out the top 5 on the Oxford researchers' list.

"It's a nightmare"

This hyperbolic phrase is used so often in conversation and in mass media that it ended up in the No. 7 slot on the list of irritating expressions from the University of Oxford.

"It's not rocket science"

The phrase "it's not rocket science," which ended up in the No. 10 slot on the Oxford list, should be off-limits. It comes off as offensive and demeaning, as it can imply that something should be easy because it's not rocket science.

"Chill out"

The last thing that a person wants to hear when they're feeling stressed, angry, or annoyed is "Chill out!" Even if you have good intentions, uttering this phrase will only serve to further upset whomever you're talking to, so it's better to avoid it and instead offer more constructive advice as to how you'd recommend whomever is on the receiving end relax. And if you're the one who needs to keep calm and carry on, then check out the 20 Best Ways to Calm Your Anger Instantly.

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