If you want to be viewed as intelligent by other people, stop using these 14 words

Want to sound smart when you talk?

Sometimes the words we use can actually make us look not-so-smart.

If you’re using big words just to show off, people might not take you seriously.

Ready to clean up your vocabulary and really impress people?

Let’s get rid of these 14 words that are doing you no favors.

1. Literally

Ah, the ever-popular “literally.” People toss this word around like confetti these days.

You might say, “I was literally dying of laughter,” when you mean you found something really funny.

But let’s get real—unless you needed medical attention for your laughter, you weren’t “literally” dying.

Using “literally” the wrong way can make you sound dramatic and not very precise.

So, the next time you’re tempted to use it, pause and think: Is this actually, 100% true? If not, maybe pick a different word.

2. Irregardless

Here’s another word that can trip you up: “irregardless.”

You might hear it in conversations and think it sounds more polished than just saying “regardless,” but guess what?

“Irregardless” isn’t really a standard word in the English language.

It’s a mash-up of “irrespective” and “regardless,” and using it can make you seem like you’re not sure what you’re talking about.

So, stick with “regardless” when you mean “without taking something into account.”

That way, you’ll sound more like you know your stuff.

3. Utilize

I’ll be honest, this one used to trip me up too. “Utilize” sounds like a fancier version of “use,” right?

Well, not exactly. While they can sometimes mean the same thing, “utilize” usually implies that you’re making the most efficient or creative use of something.

But let’s keep it simple; if you’re just talking about using something in the normal way, “use” is the word you want.

No need to dress it up with “utilize,” which can make it look like you’re trying too hard to sound smart.

Trust me, “use” gets the job done and keeps your language easy to follow.

4. Henceforth

Look, unless you’re writing a historical drama or pretending to be a wizard, there’s almost no reason to use the word “henceforth.”

Saying “from now on” does the job just fine and doesn’t make you sound like you’re stuck in a Shakespeare play.

I get it, “henceforth” sounds grand and all, but in everyday conversation, it just sticks out like a sore thumb.

It’s one of those words that scream, “Hey, look at me! I’m trying to sound smart!”

So, do yourself a favor: ditch “henceforth” and stick to words that people use in the 21st century.

5. Insofar as

“Insofar as” is one of those phrases that can tangle up a sentence faster than you can say it.

People use it to sound more formal or authoritative, but let’s be honest—most of the time it just complicates things.

Instead of saying, “Insofar as your point is valid,” you could just say, “If your point is valid,” or “Since your point is valid.”

Way easier, right?

Using simpler words keeps your message clear and makes it easier for everyone to understand what you’re saying.

So, unless you’re writing a legal document, it’s probably best to leave “insofar as” out of your everyday chit-chat.

6. Per Se

“Per se” is Latin, and while it’s cool to sprinkle in some exotic phrases now and then, using this one too often can make you look like you’re trying too hard to be sophisticated.

Basically, “per se” means “by itself” or “in itself.”

But people toss it into sentences where it doesn’t really belong or isn’t needed.

For example, saying “I don’t hate broccoli, per se, I just don’t like the taste,” might make you feel smart, but it’s really just complicating a simple idea.

A straightforward “I don’t hate broccoli; I just don’t like how it tastes” is clear and gets straight to the point.

Keep it simple, and you’re more likely to be understood—and taken seriously.

7. Unprecedented

“Unprecedented” is actually a great word when used correctly. It means something has never been done or seen before.

But here’s the kicker: because it’s a strong and impactful word, people are slapping it on everything, making its usage… well, pretty precedented.

Saying your weekend trip was “unprecedented” or calling a somewhat busy day at work “unprecedented” dilutes the word’s meaning and impact.

Plus, let’s be honest, it can make you sound like you’re blowing things way out of proportion.

Keep this word for the truly groundbreaking stuff, and you’ll not only sound smarter but also more credible.

8. Ostensibly

“Ostensibly” is one of those words that seems to promise sophistication but often just muddles your message.

It’s supposed to mean “appearing to be true, but not necessarily so.”

However, throwing it into casual conversations can make things confusing.

People might wonder, “Do they mean it’s actually true or just looks that way?”

Instead of saying, “Ostensibly, this should solve the problem,” why not be more direct?

Try something like, “This should solve the problem, but I’m not 100% sure,” or “This looks like it could solve the problem.”

By doing so, you’re getting your point across without sending people scrambling for a dictionary, and that’s always a smart move.

9. Ergo

Okay, let’s get real. If you’re not a philosopher or playing one on TV, you probably don’t need to be saying “ergo.”

Sure, it’s a quick way to say “therefore,” but it comes across as pretentious most of the time.

Seriously, when was the last time you heard someone use “ergo” in a sentence and thought, “Wow, this person is a genius”?

More likely, it made you think they’re trying too hard to sound impressive.

So, ditch the “ergo” and go with something everyone gets, like “so” or “therefore.”

It keeps the conversation flowing, and people are more likely to focus on what you’re actually saying, not how you’re saying it.

Keep it down-to-earth, and people will actually listen.

10. Basically

Here’s a word you hear all the time: “basically.” It’s so common that you might not even realize you’re using it.

But “basically” often adds nothing to what you’re trying to say, and it can make you sound a little wishy-washy.

For example, saying, “I’m basically good at basketball,” sounds less confident than saying, “I’m good at basketball.”

Sometimes we use “basically” as a filler word while we gather our thoughts, but it can make what you’re saying seem less certain or watered-down.

If what you’re describing is straightforward, just get to the point.

Instead of saying, “It’s basically a way to lose weight,” say, “It’s a way to lose weight.”

See? Short, sweet, and to the point. And that’s usually a smarter way to communicate.

11. Nevertheless

“Nevertheless” isn’t a bad word by itself, but it can be a speed bump in your sentence if not used carefully.

It’s a bit formal and can disrupt the flow of an otherwise casual conversation.

Using “nevertheless” often feels like you’re making a grand contrast between two points when you could just say “but,” “however,” or even “still” to keep things flowing more naturally.

For example, instead of saying, “I’m not a fan of hiking; nevertheless, I went along,” you could simply say, “I’m not a fan of hiking, but I went anyway.”

The second sentence feels more conversational and easier to understand, doesn’t it?

12. Moreover

“Moreover” is one of those transition words that might feel like it adds a touch of elegance or formality to your sentence.

It’s often used to add emphasis or introduce an additional point, but in everyday talk, it can make you seem a bit stiff or overly formal.

Let’s face it, most people in casual conversations don’t say, “I like ice cream. Moreover, chocolate is my favorite flavor.” It just sounds a little off, right?

Instead, why not use simpler and more natural transitions like “also,” “and,” or “plus”?

For example: “I like ice cream, and chocolate is my favorite.” Simple, easy to understand, and it gets the point across without any fuss.

Keep the “moreovers” for your academic papers or formal presentations, not for chatting with friends or colleagues.

13. Indeed

Now here’s a word that might surprise you: “indeed.” It feels polite, a touch formal, and even somewhat validating when used in sentences.

You might think it’s a solid choice for emphasizing agreement or the truth of a statement.

And while that’s not wrong, the issue comes when “indeed” is overused or stuck into places where a simple “yes” or “that’s true” would suffice.

You might think using “indeed” makes you sound more cultured or educated, but too much of it can actually make you come across as insincere or pompous.

Instead of saying, “Indeed, that’s a good point,” you could just say, “That’s a good point.”

Simple, straightforward, and genuine.

Remember, effective communication is often about clarity and sincerity, not about decking out your sentences with words that sound impressive. 

14. Exacerbate

Sure, it’s a precise word that means to make a situation worse, but it’s also a bit of a mouthful and can come off as overly technical in casual conversation.

If you say, “This will only exacerbate the problem,” some people might get what you mean, but others might be reaching for their phones to look up the word.

Why not go with something more straightforward like “make it worse” or “add fuel to the fire”?

For example, instead of saying, “Ignoring the issue will only exacerbate the problem,” you could say, “Ignoring the issue will just make the problem worse.”

The second version is just easier for everyone to understand.

By opting for simpler, more relatable words, you’re more likely to keep the focus on your message, not your vocabulary. And isn’t that the point of good communication?

The Bottom Line

The big takeaway? Good communication isn’t about using big, fancy words; it’s about being clear and to the point.

You want people to understand you, not reach for a dictionary halfway through your sentence.

Being simple and concise doesn’t mean dumbing things down; it means making your ideas accessible and easy to grasp.

After all, the goal is to share your thoughts in a way that makes other people want to listen, right?

So the next time you’re tempted to toss in a “henceforth” or an “exacerbate,” consider whether it’s really helping you get your point across or just adding unnecessary fluff.

Remember, the smartest folks are often those who can make complex ideas easily understood by everyone.

So keep it simple, be concise, and watch how your conversations start to change for the better. 

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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