39 words and phrases you're using at work that make you sound dumb

Stop saying these things, like, legit, right now.

© Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

By Jacquelyn Smith, Business Insider

  • The words and phrases you use at work can have a huge impact on how others think of you, and ultimately your ability to succeed.
  • There are quite a few things you might be saying in the office that make you sound less intelligent than you actually are.
  • You should be aware of these words and phrases, such as "legit" and "my bad" so you can stop using them immediately.

How you communicate with others at work plays a big role in how you're perceived, your capacity to move projects forward, your ability to generate trust, and how quickly you advance in your career.

"Your ability to articulate your thoughts and ideas well have a direct correlation to how well you garner cooperation and persuade others to support your efforts and projects," said Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job." "The words you choose also convey your emotional intelligence."

Your verbal communications can make or break your relationship with your boss, team, clients, business partners, and your industry network. And if you use language that "dumbs you down," you may be misunderstood by those around you at work, which can significantly hurt your ability to advance.

"A well-spoken person never goes out of style," says Taylor. "While it can be tempting to use shortcuts when speaking, go into slang mode, or just follow the crowd, you should try not to."

© XiXinXing//Getty Images   Two young businessman sitting and talking in the office
Using the following words and terms can chip away at your professional image, she says. "We're all capable of falling into these traps, but the trick is to catch yourself and avoid making them a habit."

Here are 39 words and phrases we all use from time to time that may be dumbing us down:


"It just doesn't convey a high degree of intelligence," Taylor said. "You'll be seen as far more credible when you're direct and speak professionally."
'OMG, shut up!' 

You never want to use this to tell someone to be quiet at work - but that's not even what we're talking about here.

If you're genuinely surprised or excited by something at work, there are better ways to express your those feelings than saying something dumb like, "Shut up?!?!"

Instead, try "Wow, that's great!" or "I'm so thrilled about this opportunity!"


Avoid vulgar language and profanities at work. They're unprofessional and dumb you down.

"Having a trash mouth never got anyone promoted, and can get you into trouble at work. Save it for your ride home (unless you take mass transit)," Taylor said.


If you're trying to say "me, too" then say "me, too."

'Oh my God!'

There are many better, smarter ways to express your shock or excitement.

'My bad' or 'oopsies' 

These are two of the worst ways to own up to or acknowledge a mistake at work. Go with the most straightforward and professional version: "That was my mistake. I'm sorry."


"This is part of a 'set' or family that goes with 'Totally,' 'Like' and 'Um.' A family that no one wants to visit," Taylor said.

'Chill out' 

First of all, you almost never want to tell your boss or colleague to "relax" or "calm down" because nobody likes hearing that. But if you're going to do it, don't use the phrase "chill out." It's just obnoxious and unprofessional.


Chances are, you're not using it correctly, and you'll just sound dumb when you say it.


"Another classic that hasn't parted from today's jargon, but can be reminiscent of walking through a mall bursting with teen drama," Taylor said.

'For sure' 

Just stick with "yes."

'No worries' or 'No prob'

"I have fallen prey to this, and it's not a big offender," Taylor admitted. "But when it's used to replace 'you're welcome,' I fear that 'you're welcome' will fade into old English oblivion."


It's great to be happy at work. But when you're particularly excited or proud of something, don't yell out "booyah!" It's annoying for so many reasons, Taylor said.

'Dude,' 'man,' or 'bro' 
No, no, no. Don't refer to your male colleagues as "dude" or "man" or worst of all, "bro."

'Chicks' or 'girls' 

The same goes for "chicks" and "girls." It's highly offensive and inappropriate, even if you're a woman referring to other women this way.

'You guys' 

While most of your coworkers likely won't take no offence to this, some people might feel uncomfortable being addressed this way - so you're better off avoiding it.


"Granted, it could be a lot worse," she said. "But this is one of those words that has gotten so overused, that when you say, 'That's awesome,' it's almost like saying, 'Nice ... what else?'"

'Whattup?' or 'sup?' 

Stop with the slang.

'Um' or 'uh' 

We understand you sometimes use these as filler words when you're nervous, and you may feel like you can't control the number of "ums" and "uhs" you use on a daily basis, but you can try!

Overusing these words will make you sound less competent and can kill your credibility, so you'll want to pay attention to how frequently you use them, and take the right steps to stop saying them forever.


"This makes you wonder how much productivity time in corporate America could be gained if this useless word could be 'literally' banished," Taylor says.

'Spoiler alert' 

This phrase can sometimes be funny or cute, but it often comes off as cheesy, which can make you seem a little less intelligent.


This is, like, another filler word you'll want to stop using, like, immediately.

Do we really need to explain this one?

'Yup,' 'yah,' 'nope,' and 'nah' 

It's "yes" and "no." That's all.


"No one really needs to shout if they're congratulating you," Taylor said. "So let's put this phrase to rest."

'I know, riiight?!'

"Well-meaning people use this when they're trying to be very agreeable. But when it's virtually in every other sentence, it can seem hollow and irritating," Taylor said.


Any word that's currently "cool" in popular culture should be "reserved for a dorm room, not a board room," Taylor said.

Made-up words

Just ... don't.

Misused words

If you're not really sure what a word means, don't use it.


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Career Magazine: 39 words and phrases you're using at work that make you sound dumb
39 words and phrases you're using at work that make you sound dumb
Stop saying these things, like, legit, right now.
Career Magazine
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