I’m a curmudgeon about written and verbal communication. I pay attention to word choices, whether it’s by phone or by email (and sometimes even when I post on social media). Too often, a subtle word dropped into a conversation can speak volumes about what the person is trying to say. These are the killjoys for me. They sound a bit too dated, elitist, or just not that helpful.
Next time you talk on the phone, see if you can avoid them and pick different words that communicate more effectively.
Example: “I just think that’s awesome.”
I use this word too much, and I might even use it on my next phone call. The problem is that it’s just a bland filler word these days, one that is not so awesome anymore. It has lost all meaning. It’s better to use a less common word. Exceptional! Stupendous! Marvelous!
Example: “I received your request but, regrettably, I can’t help you.”
The first question to ask yourself when you make a phone call and plan to use the word regrettably is: Are you really that sad about the topic? If it’s about not being able to meet someone because you are running a little late after lunch, pick a different word.
Example: “Sorry for being so impromptu and calling you out of the blue.”
Most people misuse this word, and I’ve heard it many times when people call me out of the blue to suggest an article idea. They say they are “sorry for being a little impromptu” and I think they mean unannounced or unexpected. It actually means unplanned.
Example: “I am calling about your upcoming schedule, vis-à-vis your trip to Las Vegas...”
Unless you are actually speaking French, this phrase sounds a little too hoity-toity for me. It means “related to” and it’s a way to explain yourself a bit further. It’s superfluous, though. Instead of saying vis-à-vis and adding more words, just get to the point.
Example: “Can I send that letter to you via the post office?”
Here’s a way to sound a bit dated. The word “via” comes from the late 1700s and referred to the route you might take with a ship or by road. My main problem with the word is that it just sounds too old-school and, really, it’s unnecessary in our digital age.
Example: “You’re going to hate me for saying this, natch.”
The word “natch” makes you sound hip and tends to pop up more in written prose. It’s a shortened version of the word naturally, and I’ve only heard it a few times on a phone call. It’s just a bit too obscure, though, and maybe a little abrupt.
7. Cachet (Pronounced Cash-ay)
Example: “The new iPhone 6 has a lot of cachet.”
This word started showing up in magazines (like Esquire and the defunct Portfolio) a few years ago as a way to describe something to be admired and revered. Strangely, it made its way into business conversation. It’s what I’d call a trend word—one that has seen its day.
Example: “Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about that.”
If you follow my work here at Inc.com, you know I hate this word. I wrote about it as one you should jettison from your written communication, but it’s annoying during a phone call, too. It’s elitist. People also stretch out the pronunciation just to make you squirm.
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