10 little phrases to ban from your vocab to become more sophisticated and classy

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Sophistication stems from a host of factors, including your poise, etiquette, fashion sense, and even your interests. 

But one of the biggest signs we notice when we meet a sophisticated person is how they speak. These classy cats seem to have a way of conversing that’s different from everyone else, and it really makes them stand out.

But just what are the differences between how they and the common, everyday person speak?

While they might use more specific terms, “big words”, and polite language, a lot of what we hear as sophisticated stems from them simply avoiding certain words and phrases.

These tiny linguistic tidbits can make them seem impolite, unsure, informal, uneducated, or just basic. They avoid them and sound a whole lot better by doing so.

Do you want to know what they almost never say?

Here are ten little phrases to ban from your vocab to become more sophisticated and classy.

1) “Um”

Unless you’re setting the base note for a choir or a singing telegram, “um” isn’t something you should keep in your vocabulary.

It’s not even a word, is it?

Instead, it’s just a sort of interjection, something you say when your mouth is working harder than your brain.

When people hear you make this little sound, they perceive you as being unsure of what you’re saying or, at the very least, not thinking before you speak.

“Uh,” “ah,” and “er” are all the same thing.

Try to slow down and gather your thoughts before you speak, and you’ll be able to cut these words out and sound a whole lot more erudite.

2) “Like”

If you like something then, by all means, use this word.

The problem with “like” is that it picked up a few new uses over the past few decades, and two of them definitely lack class.

One way to use “like” is when you’re quoting someone or reporting on something.

“I was like, ‘You’d better not touch the mashed potatoes!’”

This slang use of like displays a lack of knowledge of speech verbs. You could say I “said”, “shouted”, or “warned” to sound more sophisticated.

Then there’s using “like” as pure conversational filler.

“You know, like, when people, like, say this a lot?”

Most people have gotten used to hearing this everywhere, but that doesn’t mean it sounds good.

At best, it makes you sound as unsure as “um.” At worst, it grates on people’s nerves.

Cut this use of the word “like” out of your vocabulary, and you’ll instantly sound classier.

3) “Sorta”

“Sorta” is one of the words I’m stuck on, even though I know it doesn’t make me sound great.

What’s wrong with using this word?

For one thing, “sort of” is the same number of syllables, so you’re not gaining anything by saying “sorta” anyway.

But more than that, using this word is a hedge. 

Rather than making a definite statement that makes you sound sure of yourself, using “sorta” makes you sound less sure and less confident.

Compare “He was sorta hot” with “He was mildly attractive.”

Can you see what I mean?

4) “Just sayin’”

When you say “just sayin’,” you almost certainly aren’t.

What I mean is that people use this phrase all the time to make statements and then soften them or try to pretend like they’re innocuous. But the whole point is that they’re not.

First of all, if you were really just making a clear, direct statement, why would you have to then say that you said something? It doesn’t make sense.

So if you do use this phrase, you’re suggesting that you’re definitely not just saying what you said. You’re suggesting that your statement either has another, deeper meaning or you’re trying to distance yourself from the thing you just said.

“That outfit looks terrible. I’m just saying.”

If you want to sound classier, say what you mean, and don’t feel the need to tell people that you just said something. They will have heard you already!

5) “Needless to say…”

If you don’t need to say it, then why are you about to say it?

I have to admit that this phrase is one of my personal pet peeves.

I know it might sound intelligent, what with the uncommon word “needless” and its odd structure, but this phrase truly is something you never, ever need to say.

If you want to mention something, go ahead and mention it. If you know the other person knows already, you can state that. 

Let’s compare “Needless to say; he’s a total fraud” with “I know you’re aware he’s a total fraud”.

The latter sentence just sounds a whole lot clearer, more direct, and not self-contradictory.

Needless to say, this is a phrase you should stop using right away. No, wait, I really do need to say it!

6) “With all due respect…”

Here’s a phrase you normally say right before disrespecting someone.

“With all due respect, this salad is atrocious!”

In this kind of example, the speaker is trying to get away with saying something nasty without facing the consequences for it. They’re basically saying, “Don’t get mad at me for the rotten thing I’m about to say.”

What a cop-out.

Look, if you have some bad news or criticism for someone, there are better ways to do it than just using this phrase. You can make it clear that you respect them and care about their feelings, and then you won’t have to use it at all.

7) “This sucks”

Wow, there’s a lot to unpack with this phrase.

First off, “this sucks” is a slang phrase used to criticize something you don’t like, but it really has nothing to give. It certainly lacks the sophistication of a proper critique.

“This mojito could have a better balance of sweet and sour, and the mint is barely detectable” sounds a whole lot more intelligent than “This mojito sucks.”

On top of that, this phrase is just negative and reminds most people of sulky teenagers who overuse it to express angst and ennui.

Overall, the phrase sucks, and I, for one, would never use it.

8) “Whatever/Watevs”

If someone asks you what you want to eat and you answer “Whatever’s easy”, no one is going to see you as lacking in sophistication.

But if your comeback to a criticism is “Whatevs,” you definitely don’t look as classy and triumphant as you might think.

All this word does is dismiss the other person by suggesting that you don’t care about what they’ve said. But really, it’s just filler for when you don’t have any sort of retort.

Imagine your boss telling you, “This report is missing some critical statistics regarding our biggest clients,” and you come back with, “Whatever.”

I don’t suppose anyone is going to be impressed with your response.

This is something you can stop saying so you sound classier and more intelligent.

9) “It is what it is”

Is it? Thanks for letting us know.

Imagine a doctor seeing a dark, splotchy blob on an X-ray and declaring to a patient, “It is what it is.”

I’m quite sure that the patient would be looking for a second opinion immediately.

So why do so many people like to use this seemingly useless phrase?

One use of the phrase is to brush things off or make a statement about something when there’s really nothing to say. “This work is unacceptable!” answered with “It is what it is” is going to do nothing but infuriate.

People also use the phrase as a reminder to accept things as they are, but even though their intention might be good, it really doesn’t add anything.

“I just totaled my car!” “It is what it is.”

Thanks, guru.

There’s really no good reason to say this, and it definitely doesn’t make you sound classy.

10) “I dunno”

If you don’t know something and you have to inform someone of that fact, telling them, “Sorry, I don’t know,” isn’t lacking in sophistication by any means.

Where this phrase is poorly used, though, is when it’s stuffed into other sentences to soften them.

“There was this guy, and he looked, I dunno, weird or something.”

If you want to tell someone a story or give them information, telling them you don’t know really takes away from the quality of what you’re saying. It’s going to make you seem less sure, less reliable, and less accurate.

None of those things will make you seem more classy. 

Watch your words

It’s actually quite easy to make yourself sound much classier. 

Knowing about these ten little words and phrases to ban from your vocab to become more sophisticated and classy is a great first step.

Choosing to avoid slang, vulgarity, negativity, and derogatory language are other great things to do to help you impress others with your refinement and consideration.

Ultimately, the words you choose make a big difference in how people see you, so choose wisely. 

9 signs you’re a highly independent thinker, according to psychology

People who are beautiful on the outside but cruel on the inside often display these 8 subtle behaviors