There’s a fine line between sounding smart and trying too hard to sound intelligent.

Certain words in our daily conversations might actually be doing more harm than good to our perceived intelligence. It’s not about using big, fancy words, but using the right ones at the right time.

In fact, avoiding certain words can make you sound more intelligent. Here are 10 words you might want to eliminate from your vocabulary if you want to sound intelligent.

1) “Literally”

One word that’s become a part of our everyday conversations is “literally.” It’s a word that’s often used incorrectly and excessively, diminishing its impact and making the speaker sound less informed.

The word “literally” means exactly what it says, without exaggeration. But how often do we use it in this context? More often than not, we are using it to emphasize a point, even when the situation is not literal.

2) “Just”

Using this word makes the speaker sound less confident and assertive.  Instead of saying, “I just think,”  say, “I believe,” or “I suggest.” This small change makes a big difference in how ideas are perceived.

Eliminating “just” from your vocabulary can make your statements sound more confident and impactful. 

3) “Very”

“Very” is a word we often use to intensify an adjective. It’s easy, it’s quick, and it seems like the perfect way to stress a point. But did you know that it can actually make your statement sound weak? The word “very” can dilute the impact of your statement.

Instead of saying “I’m very tired,” you could say “I’m exhausted.” Instead of “It’s very cold,” you could say “It’s freezing.” By using more precise adjectives, your statements become stronger and more impactful.

4) “Honestly”

“Honestly” is a word we often use when we want to emphasize our sincerity or truthfulness. It seems like a good way to stress a point or to assure the listener that we’re being forthright.

Try to limit your usage of “honestly”. Let your words speak for themselves and trust in your listener’s ability to understand your sincerity without qualifiers.

5) “Like”

“Like” is a word that has snuck into our everyday language, especially with the younger generation. We often use it as a filler word, something to bridge the gap between our thoughts. However, excessive use of “like” can make your speech sound less intelligent and confident.

For instance, saying “I was, like, so surprised when I heard the news,” weakens your statement. It’s better to say, “I was so surprised when I heard the news.” The second sentence is more direct and assertive.

The problem with “like” is that it often doesn’t add much value to our sentences. Instead, it acts as a verbal crutch, filling the spaces when we’re unsure what to say next.

Our language, the words we choose, and how we use them, are a reflection of who we are. They shape our thoughts, influence our perceptions, and profoundly affect our interactions with others.

By being mindful of the words we use, by choosing them wisely and using them accurately, we expand the boundaries of our world. We communicate more effectively, appear more confident and yes, sound more intelligent.

If you are interested in reading about the other 5 words in the original article, and I hope you are, it can be found here:  

This article is written by Eliza Hartley and published January 20, 2024.