The Business of Vocabulary


One’s vocabulary is essential to getting a point across, for effectively and succinctly describing events or people and places and ultimately it is how we communicate with one another. More than that, vocabulary is critical in business and life. The words people choose to use in their writing or speech leave an impression. In essence, this means the words individuals pick to use to communicate matter. While there is nothing definitive saying there are words people should avoid in writing or speech, as intelligent beings, there are some words that should perhaps be used less often, in particular in a formal or business capacity.

According to a number of publications such as Forbes and Business Insider there are a number of words people should eliminate from their vocabulary in order to sound smarter. As a writer, it can be difficult to remove words from one’s vocabulary because someone else disapproves of them. Instead, limiting the use of these apparently unnecessary or inaccurate words can at least improve the quality of the writing in question. As Business Insider points out, people have less of an attention span and often do not have the time to sit down and read excessive words when they are looking for information. People are looking for quick fixes, information in Tweet formats of less than 140 characters and pictures that tell the story without having to read as much.

Although the list of 15 words that should be eliminated from one’s vocabulary is interesting and explained in-depth by Business Insider, perhaps paying attention to how often one uses the words in formal speech or writing will be enough to enhance the quality of what is said. Even if eliminating them completely is unrealistic, at least understanding proper usage can improve, at the very least, business writings.

  • The first word that appears on the list is “that.” In explaining why this word should be removed from people’s vocabulary, it is suggested the word is superfluous and even misused. In a case of misusing the word, when people refer to people by the term that, this is incorrect and instead the word/s which should be used is actually who or whom.
  • Another word on the list which is suggested to be replaced is the word “went.” The reason for this is a general laziness in choosing this word over a more descriptive word. The word went is a way to explain how a person moved from one place to another, choosing a different word can give a richer meaning to the story and adds another dimension to what is being described.
  • The word “honestly” made the list and this makes sense. When one says the word honestly when speaking or writing, it can call into question the other words or ideas expressed. It makes the writer look as if their previous words were perhaps not as truthful as the words connected to the term honestly.
  • “Very” is another word which can easily be eliminated from writing. The word is used as a qualifier for a verb, and is one which is also unspecific. Choosing a different qualifier gives more meaning to the words, instead of saying someone is very happy, one could be joyous.
  • The word “literally” is often used incorrectly. Typically when a person uses the word literally, this is an inaccuracy. Something that literally happens is an event without exaggeration, it is an occurrence that happened as it is said to have happened. Often when people use literally, what they mean to say is figuratively.
  • The ultimate word on the do not use list is “irregardless.” If one were to look the word up they would find that the word means regardless and is often interchanged with the word irrespective. While some may argue that the word can be found in the dictionary, others will say the word has no true meaning as the prefix negates the word as a whole. The word is one which has been heavily debated since its first usage.

Although there were more words listed on Business Insider’s list of words to eliminate from one’s vocabulary, these are the words that are often either misused or overused. Even a slight change in a person’s vernacular can have a positive effect on how they are getting their point across. Changing out certain words can actually strengthen a writer or speaker, because it forces a person to truly think about what they are trying to say and how they want to say it.

By Kimberley Spinney


Business Insider: 15 words to eliminate from your vocabulary to sound smarter

Thought Catalog: 22 Everyday Words You Might Not Realize You’ve Been Using Incorrectly

Forbes: 10 Words To Erase From Your Vocabulary

Photo Courtesy of Daria and Epicantus’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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