Want to become a better communicator in the office? Well, of course you do.
You’re in luck, because giving your communication skills a serious boost doesn’t need to be an overwhelming undertaking. In fact, you can start by simply eliminating a few commonly overused words from your vocabulary—and I’m not only talking about the obvious “like”s and “umm”s we all tend to pepper throughout our sentences.
Cut these six words out of your workplace communication, and you’re sure to impact your audience—rather than irritate them.
They told me to do it this way. They asked if we could make these changes. Well, they say…
Sound familiar? You’ve probably heard things like this from your colleagues, and you’ve likely fallen into this very same trap a few times as well. “They” is an easy word to lean on, but it often leaves your conversational partner wondering, “They? Who exactly is they?”
Take the time to avoid generalities and get specific about who exactly you’re talking about, such as, “The marketing department requested that we do it this way”. It’ll make your message that much clearer and save a lot of confusion in the long run.
I was recently on a phone call with someone who seemed to end every single one of her sentences with, “Right?” It made it seem as if she was looking for agreement, but she never actually paused for me to confirm what she was saying. Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to realize that she treated this more like punctuation—rather than an actual question.
Perhaps you don’t overuse this word quite as heavily as she did. But, it’s still one that you’ll want to be consciously aware of. Ending your sentences with this question only makes you sound as if you’re seeking approval—even if you’re not. So, removing it entirely (except for in those rare instances when you actually need an answer) will make you appear that much more confident.
“Can you quick rewrite the three sections I marked in this article?” one of my editors asked me via email. At first glance, there was nothing wrong with her request—until I realized that she had used the word “quick”, and I knew that there was going to be nothing speedy about reworking my entire piece.
This isn’t an inherently bad word. But, as with anything, it depends on the context it’s used in. And, more often than not, I hear this injected into sentences and situations that are anything but fast. “Can I quick jump in?” your co-worker asks in a meeting, before launching into a twenty-minute spiel. Or, “I just need to take care of this quick,” your boss says—before making you wait an extra half hour for your scheduled sit-down.
Your attempts to downplay the amount of effort or time something will require are understandable. But, in the end, it’s misleading. Cut the word “quick” out of your sentences unless you really intend to be, well, quick.
This word “just” is one that I see creep up in emails more than anywhere else, and I’m definitely not immune to the charms of this four-letter word myself. I tend to rely on it so heavily that I’ve made a habit of going back through my messages and deleting this word wherever it appears—which is usually at least three times in every single message.
I’m willing to bet you’re guilty of the very same thing. For some reason, sprinkling in this word serves to make your message seem slightly less aggressive. “I’m just checking in” sounds a little less forceful than “I’m checking in.”
But, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still an unnecessary filler word that isn’t adding anything to your message. So, when in doubt, kick it to the curb.
I’m all for sucking up your pride and apologizing when it’s warranted. But, if you start taking stock of how many times each day you let this word fall out of your mouth, you’ll likely be surprised at how often you’re apologizing—for absolutely nothing.
As Muse writer, Aja Frost, explains in her piece about writing professional emails, “I try to stay away from saying ‘sorry’ in situations that don’t merit it: when I make a tiny mistake, when I state my opinion, or when someone points out something I missed.”
Follow in her footsteps and do your best to avoid apologizing for the sake of filling the silence. And, when something really does require your remorse, stick with, “I apologize” instead. It’ll carry a little more weight than a flippant, “Sorry!”
There’s something sort of condescending about this word, isn’t there? Whether you want to share a difference of opinion in a team meeting or show a co-worker a better day to do her piece of a project, starting your sentence with “actually” typically makes you seem snide and even a little chiding.
In most cases, you can cut out this qualifier altogether. But, if you feel the need to replace it with something, a friendly, “You know” should do the trick—without that pesky air of condescension.
Did I miss anything that you hear over and over again in the office? Let me know on Twitter which overused words you think need to be added to this list!
Photo of person explaining courtesy of PeopleImages/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author