Phrases We Can All Stop Using

I don’t like the idea of new year’s resolutions much, but I do like setting goals for myself. One of my goals this year has been to stop saying certain pointless phrases, like “to be honest.” In the process I’ve found myself becoming very aware of the other dumb things people say, too. Here are my top five.

“To be honest.”

You’ve been dishonest with me in the past and am only starting to be honest now? Is that what you wanted to have me think? The Urban Dictionary advises that it “can be used in any sentence as long as you agree with yourself” and that it is “the crutch of a idiot who uses it to append declarative sentences in order to sound more authoritative.”


As far as I’m concerned the only thing that will ever be described by me in this way is whatever the goop is that Verti Marte in New Orleans puts on their “All That Jazz” sandwich. Unless you’re describing a delicious sauce you sound like an idiot. I also remind you that you may not have awesome sauce, secret sauce, or other foods in the data center.

“I could care less.”

Did you really mean “you couldn’t care less?” Please care more about the accuracy of the words you speak. You’re probably the type of person who sends me summer meeting invites in CST and writes shell scripts that don’t specify the full path to filesystem objects which, when run from cron, crap all over the wrong filesystem and get me paged at 3 AM.

“My bad.”

I think the Urban Dictionary sums it up nicely here:

“I did something bad, and I recognize that I did something bad, but there is nothing that can be done for it now, and there is technically no reason to apologize for that error, so let’s just assume that I won’t do it again, get over it, and move on with our lives.”

Ruder than apologizing, but with the same meaning: a flippant apology.

Try “oh crap, I’m really sorry” instead, and sound like you mean it. Also, you’re fired for waking me up at 3 AM and using “my bad” as the apology. Not that I’m upset or anything, it’s a business decision. You’ll eventually say something like that to a customer I wanted to keep.


I have, um, bailed out on one live presentation, two conference calls, and one webinar so far this year because the, um, presenter, um, cannot stop talking without saying “um.”

The occasional “uhm” is natural, especially when pondering questions from people, but when it gets to be more than once per paragraph of material it is very distracting. It is a sign that the presenter doesn’t know the material. I eventually can only hear the “uhms” and I leave because my time is valuable. Get some notes, or don’t be in a position to talk about things you don’t know much about.

It takes practice to learn to speak and pause without saying anything. It also takes practice to unlearn the habit of saying other stupid things. In most cases we use these phrases because we don’t know what else to say. Try expanding your vocabulary a little by finding a word or two that can be substituted. Or pinch yourself hard every time you catch yourself saying these things. The more you work on it the more you’ll find that people want to listen to you.

10 thoughts on “Phrases We Can All Stop Using”

  1. I can’t stand people presenting and saying uhm!! We have this ” Training guru” on Continuous Improvement 95S, Six Sigma) working with us at work and the 1st time he talk for an hour and had close to 200 uhms!!! When he speaks I notice it right away and this guy is suppose to be the professional and he looks like a bafoon saying all those uhms & ahhs..

  2. Every once in a while I’ll use “to be honest,” but I don’t feel like I overuse it. I see your point, but I think most of the time, people use it to mean “to be frank.” As in “I’m going to say something right now that I might not say if my boss were around,” or “I’m about to say something that no one else seems to be willing to say.”

    “To be honest, this product sucks ass and I don’t know why we blew our department’s budget on it.”

    I used to have a boss who would say “no worries” a lot. Ironically, I now have a boss who takes irrational offence at the term “no worries,” as if the phrase means “I’m blowing you off now.”

  3. Really? This is basically, literally it? This is literally one of your more unique postings, at the end of the day.

  4. …And “Totally Rad” can hit the list also.

    People who use a lot of slang terms in a business environment used to peeve me off, but now I could care less…. My bad!


  5. A word I’m trying to stop using is “actually”. I don’t use it as pure filler, but I tend to use it when I’ve changed my own mind about a situation – or I’m trying to point out that something may not be as obvious as it seems. I catch myself saying it far too often.

    • Same here. I say actually a lot and I have either just stopped saying it when I catch myself or replace it with something else. In a situation where I changed my mind I will instead say “You know what…” or “instead” in its place. If I am pointing out the obvious “truly” or “distinctly”.

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