I give words a lot of attention. It’s how I eat.
At this point in my life … with more than a half-century of hearing, reading, saying, and writing words … I generally like short, simple, and easy to understand words … words that aren’t stiff, unapproachable, or ostentatious (showy ... that was an example).
Occasionally, a big fancy word might be more precise for communicating something. But, if I want to make a connection with my words, helping someone quickly and easily understand something (or get excited about something), simple is better.
Why trip someone up and force a definition search?
I love the New York Times. But I think its writers/editors enjoy showing off. A few of their fancy words I've collected over the years ... inchoate: rudimentary, somnambulism: sleepwalking, quotidian: daily, interlocutor: a person who takes part in a dialogue or conversation, acerbic: sharp and forthright, dyspeptic: of or having indigestion or consequent irritability or depression. (Those last two were used in the same sentence!)
I also like sentences without unnecessary words, clichés, or half-dead corporate speak that hasn’t been reevaluated by a grown-up in a decade. (Below are some of the words and phrases I’ve grown to dislike … maybe to an unhealthy level.)
I slip with all of this myself.
My most recent example was falling asleep on our email order confirmations for customers. We hadn't reviewed them in a few years. They were terrible. Pretty stupid given the importance of helping a customer feel confident in buying something from us.
So what’s the point Sam?!
I recommend staying awake to what you say and to what you write (enjoy 4 tips on writing better email, please) … continually practicing and perfecting your word choice and the delivery of those words … staying away from those overused and unnecessary words as best you can.
I find it more difficult to improve the words I say than to improve the words I write.
I can revise and edit what I write (and do many times … as I did with this and do with my books). But what I say out loud stays out loud when heard and remembered. Even so, if I stay awake and hear myself using words or phrases I’d rather not say, I try to do better next time.
Fillers I try to avoid...
- First and foremost ... you don't need to say first and foremost.
- Simply put ... everything should be simply put.
- Quite simply ... isn't simply put.
- Needless to say ... is needless to say.
- To be honest ... you should always be honest.
- The truth of the matter is ... the only thing you should share.
- All too often ... all too often isn't necessarily too often.
- I will say ... you could just say it without telling me you will.
- I do think ... I say what I think without saying 'I do think.'
- We do apologize ... is lifeless corporate speak that tells me you're not really sorry.
- I would argue ... but I'd prefer to say what I think.
- Now more than ever ... not everything is more important than they've ever been.
- In most cases ... some of those cases aren't necessarily most cases.
- If there's one thing we know ... we know many more things than one thing.
- Clearly ... I like to add that word to emphasize I understand.
- Certainly ... using the word certainly doesn't make me absolutely certain of your certainty.
- Make no mistake ... this phrase is unnecessary drama and could be perceived as a threat.
- Rest assured ... your cliché doesn't help me rest assured.
- I'm the type of person who ... tells you the type of person they are without saying 'I'm the type of person who'.
- That's a good question ... but I'm guessing that's the reason you asked it and you'd like an answer.
- We pride ourselves on ... our humility so we try not to tell you about our pride.
- The secrets to ... anything aren't secrets when they're openly shared.
- Think outside the box ... is an overused phrase that starts by thinking inside the box.
- World-renowned, highly sought-after thought leaders, speakers, gurus, and premier providers ... should be those things rather than waste people's time making them read and hear those things.
- Without further delay or adieu ... is further delay and adieu.
- It goes without saying ... saying it goes without saying is saying something unneeded before something that doesn't need to be said.
- Like I said before ... reminding me you already told me won't help our relationship.
- So, I was like, you know, actually ... I wish I could get rid of these communication tics.
- At the end of the day ... who wants to live a life just trying to get through the day? A better approach: Stay in the day and enjoy more of it.
Words I try to use...
- Use for utilize or operationalize (Really?!)
- Buy for purchase
- More for additional
- Help for assistance
- Talk for dialogue
- Story for narrative
- Sorry for apologize
- Want for desire
- Group for audience
- Ask for inquire
- Improve for level up
- Maybe for perhaps
- Hazy for nebulous
- First for originally
- Paid for remuneration
- Train for locomotive
Something you'd like to add? It's an evolving list. Email me.
Want to talk through ideas on how to use our messages and ideas with your team?
Please call us in Richmond, Virginia (804-762-4500), email us, or chat with us (lower right corner of this browser).
We're real people and we'd love to hear from you.
To reach Sam (author of this post and the books we publish), email him directly or call him at 804-762-4500 ext. 212. Want him to speak at your upcoming meeting or event?