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.
- Don't get me wrong ... I should have been clearer.
- 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.
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