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Rethink Your Office Vocabulary

By Kristine Penning,


Do you have a habit of saying a phrase or word over and over again? Or do you swear like a sailor? Small quirks in your vocabulary might make a totally different impression at work than at home or out with friends. Your workplace, whether it’s in an office or on the farm, is your place of profession, so your vocabulary should be just as professional. If you find yourself guilty of any of the following, you may want to rethink your office vocabulary.


Literally (or totally): I’m guilty of using the word “definitely” a lot, which I have just now caught on to be kind of annoying. The same goes for “literally” and “totally.” Usually, these words are just fillers (more on those later) that are used to add emphasis to a story you’re telling. They’re not necessary and can get really repetitive. Find some more interesting words to tell your stories.


Swearing: If I’m around fellow professionals that drop even one expletive in an even remotely professional setting, I immediately think less of them. They’re extremely unprofessional and rude for one thing, but for another, they make you sound stupid. Trash talk has no place at a meeting or a business lunch. Save it for drinks after work with a close colleague if you absolutely must.


Filler words: Yes, the occasional “um,” “uh,” “so,” or “like” may be unavoidable, but your colleagues and new acquaintances will notice their overuse. It can be annoying or uncomfortable to speak with someone who has trouble with fluency. This can also make you appear unintelligent. Catching yourself using these filler words is a good way to work toward not using them at all.


Talking like a Teenager: If you just scored a new client, refrain from celebrating with words like “Booyah.” And if you’re connecting with a coworker over the phone, refrain from calling them “dude.” And quit calling everything “legit!” In the words of the late Prince, “Act your age, not your shoe size.” If you go around saying, “Chill out,” your boss is likely picturing his twelve-year-old kid back sassing him at home. Probably not how you want him to think of you.


Negative Phrasing: Do you ever find yourself saying “no” a lot? How about “not,” as in “Not my problem?” Your coworkers will start to pick up on your use of negative phrasing and it will not only distance them from you but it could also cost you opportunities. For example, no one wants to assign a new client to someone who says “no” all the time.


Clichés: Spoiler alert: you’ll get thrown under the bus if you drink the Kool-Aid that is clichés. Just take it offline. It is what it is.