9 words you should stop using if you want to come across as smart

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I have a confession to make.

I used to be a huge blabbermouth. I’d talk about anything and everything, throwing my words around like a volleyball, assigning them no weight whatsoever.

This meant that I often sounded quite unintelligent even though I was actually very intellectually oriented. The words I used and the tone of voice with which I spoke were so at odds with what was happening on the inside that my closest friends were often baffled.

Thankfully, those times are behind me now.

What about you? Is your vocabulary filled with words that don’t do you justice?

Let’s find out.

Here are the 9 words you should stop using if you want to come across as smart.

1) “Like”

Look, I know just how tempting “like” is. I say that as someone who used to use it in every sentence.

“Can we hang out at, like, the mall or something?”

“Heights are, you know, like, a bit scary.”

“Are we, like, having a conversation or arguing?”

Whatever the scenario is, you can probably throw a few “likes” in there. “Like” is a filler word for a reason, after all – it helps us stop for a second, think over what we’re going to say next, and fill the silence with something fluffy and inconsequential.

Unfortunately, it also makes most people sound less intelligent than they really are.

Here’s a tip for you: instead of “like”, try to speak a bit slower in general. Contrary to popular belief, you won’t sound silly at all as long as you can own it. 

In fact, speaking at a slow and measured pace can come across as very smart and confident.

2) “Literally”

Ah, yet another old favorite of mine.

“Literally” is so incredibly versatile, isn’t it? It can literally be applied to anything. Literally.

The issue is that “literally” actually has a meaning (for example, you can understand something literally, which means you take what the other person has said at face value and don’t see the deeper meaning behind their words), yet many people don’t use it in the way it was intended.

Moreover, I’ve met plenty of people who tend to overuse the word, which then makes them sound a bit like a broken record.

There is a time and place for “literally”. Every other sentence isn’t it, though.

3) “Stuff”

“Maybe we can go to the cinema and stuff?”

“Have you got all the stuff we need?”

Can you see the difference between the two sentences above?

The second one points to a specific set of objects. The first one is a filler word (read: completely pointless).

I, too, once fell victim to the beauty of “stuff”. It’s an amazing way to express a general sense of potential continuation or exploring the unknown.

When you add “and stuff” behind something, you’re essentially saying, “Let’s see how things go, shall we?”

The sad part is that “stuff” is also so overused and filler-y that it doesn’t do you any favors. 

Instead, try to say what you really mean: “Maybe we can go to the cinema and then see if we want to do something after?”

Much better.

4) “Thingy”

“Thingy” has recently gained popularity in my social circles, and no wonder why. It’s yet another word that can be used in almost any situation.

“Can you grab that thingy, please?”

“Have you got the, you know, the, eh, thingy?”

Of course, the problem is that people probably won’t know what it is you’re referring to ninety percent of the time. But it does come in handy when you can’t remember the right word.

It also doesn’t make you sound exactly smart. Proceed with caution.

5) “Kinda”

“I kinda wanna go on a trip this weekend.”

Kinda? Does that mean you want to go, but only partly? Or do you just really want to go and stuff unnecessary words in your sentences?

That is the question.

Seriously, though. “Kinda” and “kind of” are fun and all, but all these words really do is take up space.

Plus, overusing them robs them of their true meaning (“to a certain extent”).

6) “Irregardless”

You might think that saying “irregardless” will make you sound clever, but the truth is that “irregardless” is actually wrong.

Yes, you heard me right. “Irregardless” doesn’t officially exist. “Regardless” does.

While “regardless” means “despite” (regard + less), “irregardless” is used to mean the same thing but shouldn’t actually carry that meaning.

And that’s because “ir” is superfluous. The words “regard” and “less” already say everything that needs to be said. There is no need to add “ir” on top of it all.

Of course, people do say “irregardless” in informal settings, but it should generally be avoided in professional or academic circles.

7) “Whatever”

Here’s why “whatever” isn’t exactly a great option to go for when you want to sound intelligent: it makes it seem like you’re trying to look like you don’t care even though you care very much.

In other words, it comes across as emotionally immature.

“Hey, can we talk a bit more about what happened yesterday?”

“It’s whatever.”

That just sounds passive-aggressive, doesn’t it? A bit like you’re sulking. And even if you’re not sulking, it’s still not very eloquent.

It’s always better to use full sentences rooted in open communication.

8) “Fine”

“Fine” is in a very similar vein to “whatever” in so that it reduces all your feelings and thoughts into one passive-aggressive grunt that leads nowhere.

“Can we agree to this compromise?”


Doesn’t sound very fine to me. If you disagree, don’t settle for grumbling consent – express your genuine feelings instead.

9) “Blah, blah, blah”

When someone disagrees with you or has preferences that aren’t in line with yours, you might be tempted to resort to silly and playful behavior to both ease the tension and express your discontent.

“Blah, blah, blah” is one such way to do exactly that.

Unfortunately, it’s also very childish, which means that it doesn’t come across as very intelligent.

I say that as someone who used to like saying “Blah, blah, blah” quite a lot. Yeah. I’m not proud of it.

But hey, we learn and move on.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • Don’t use unnecessary filler words that decrease the quality of the overall meaning
  • Always aim to communicate openly and assertively (passive aggression is a no-go)
  • If you’re unsure whether some of the words you like to use are grammatically correct, look it up just to make sure – not everything that’s commonly used makes sense

Your vocabulary says a great deal about you. Throw out the above-mentioned nine words, and you’ll do your intellectual powers justice.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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