11 phrases you should stop using if you want to come across as intelligent

Mia Zhang by Mia Zhang | April 7, 2024, 7:38 am

Everyone wants to sound a bit smarter, right? But sometimes, the words we use don’t help us out. In fact, they can make us seem less clever!

Believe it or not, changing up your vocabulary could really improve how people perceive you.

So, ready to ditch some phrases that might be holding you back? We’ve got a list of 11 common culprits.

Grab your notepad, and let’s dive into the world of words. You might learn something new – and sound smarter too!

1) “Literally”

We’ve all been guilty of using “literally” when we mean “figuratively”. This word is often used to add emphasis, but it can make you come across as less intelligent when used incorrectly. “Literally” means something is true in the most exact sense.

Essentially, saying “I’m literally dying of laughter” isn’t quite accurate unless you really are on the brink of death!

Instead, try phrases like “I couldn’t stop laughing” or “It was hilarious”. These alternatives can convey your point without diminishing your perceived intelligence.

2) “Irregardless”

“Irregardless” is a word that’s often used but isn’t actually a real word. It’s a mash-up of “irrespective” and “regardless”, and using it can make you seem less knowledgeable.

Listen up: the correct word to use is simply “regardless”.

3) “I’m no expert but…”

This is a phrase I was guilty of using quite often. It might seem polite or humble, but it actually undermines your credibility right off the bat.

If you’re sharing an opinion or thought, there’s no need to downplay your understanding of the subject. I remember once during a team meeting, I said, “I’m no expert but I think we should change our marketing approach.”

Looking back, I realize that my phrase diminished the impact of my suggestion. Instead of using this phrase, it’s better just to state your opinion or idea confidently.

So now, I’d simply say, “I think we should change our marketing approach.” By doing this, your thoughts and ideas can stand on their own merit without being overshadowed by unnecessary disclaimers.

4) “I could care less”

This phrase is often used to express lack of interest or concern about something.

However, if you think about it, saying “I could care less” actually implies that you do care to some degree because it suggests you could care less than you currently do.

Now, the correct phrase is “I couldn’t care less”, meaning you have no care left to give because your level of concern is already at zero.

This phrase originated in Britain and was later brought over to America where it somehow transformed into the incorrect version we often hear today.

5) “It’s not fair”

Life isn’t fair, I agree.

However, using the phrase “It’s not fair” can give off the impression of immaturity and a lack of understanding about life’s complexities.

A more heartfelt and intelligent way to express the same sentiment might be, “I’m having a hard time understanding why this happened,” or “This situation is challenging for me.”

These phrases show a willingness to engage with difficult circumstances and reflect on them, rather than resorting to the simplistic idea of fairness.

6) “At the end of the day”

I’ll admit, this is a phrase I used to use quite a bit. It’s a common way to sum up an argument or thought, but it’s also a bit of a cliché and can make you sound less original or thoughtful.

I remember using it in a presentation once. I said, “At the end of the day, our sales tactics need to change.” Later, a colleague pointed out that my overuse of the phrase was distracting from my main points.

Now, instead of relying on “at the end of the day”, I try to mix it up with phrases like “ultimately”, or “in conclusion”, or just cutting it out entirely.

It’s made my communication clearer and more impactful.

7) “To be honest”

“TBH” or “To be honest” – we’ve all used it, right?

But let’s get real here. This phrase can make people wonder, “Wait, are you not being honest the rest of the time?”

It’s kind of like you’re saying all your previous statements lack honesty which can cause others to question your credibility.

Instead of dropping a “to be honest”, just say what you mean. Be direct, be clear, and let your words stand on their own. 

8) “I literally can’t even”

This phrase became popular with the advent of “internet language” and is frequently used on social media platforms to express disbelief or frustration.

But, let’s face it – it doesn’t read as the most intelligent of phrases.

The word “even” in this context is known as a “vague-complement,” a term that is usually followed by an implicit action or state. When people say they “can’t even,” they’re leaving this action or state unspecified, which can make them sound unarticulate.

A better alternative? Perhaps try to express your disbelief or frustration in clear terms.

For example, instead of saying, “I literally can’t even with this traffic,” say, “This traffic is incredibly frustrating.” It’s straightforward and communicates exactly what you mean.

9) “Same difference”

I used to use this phrase a lot when I was younger. It seemed like a quick way to end an argument or dismiss a correction. But as I’ve grown, I’ve realized it doesn’t really make sense.

When someone would correct me, I’d often retort with “same difference”. But in reality, if two things have the same difference, it means they are actually identical, which was not what I was trying to express.

Now, when someone corrects me, I take it as an opportunity to learn. Instead of brushing off the correction with “same difference”, I thank them and make a mental note for the future.

It’s made me more open to learning and has definitely helped me sound more intelligent!

10) “Just saying”

Okay, let’s be brutally honest here. “Just saying” is often used as a cop-out after making a contentious statement. It’s like you’re trying to remove yourself from the impact of your own words, and that’s not cool.

When you say something, own it. Don’t hide behind “just saying”.

If you’ve got something to say, say it with conviction and stand by your words. It’s all about being confident in your opinions and thoughts.

11) “Whatever”

“Whatever” is the ultimate conversation killer. It’s dismissive, it’s rude, and it definitely doesn’t make you sound smart.

If you’re not interested or disagree with what someone is saying, there are far better ways to express this.

My advice? Ditch the dismissive “whatever” for something more constructive. Opt for “I see your point, but here’s another angle,” or “Perhaps we’re just on different pages here.”

It’s straightforward, considerate, and signals that you’re fully present in the dialogue, ready to navigate through disagreements with grace.

It pays to be precise

In wrapping up, the words we choose in our daily interactions play a pivotal role in shaping perceptions of our intelligence and thoughtfulness.

When we consciously avoid phrases that undermine our credibility, we not only refine our language but also enhance the quality of our communication. Embracing precision, clarity, and respect in our speech fosters an environment of understanding and respect.

Let’s commit to being mindful of our word choices, recognizing the power they hold in asserting our intelligence and building meaningful connections.

After all, mastering the art of communication is a lifelong journey that enriches both ourselves and those around us.