5 Words to Avoid If You Want to Sound Like a Boss

Editor-in-Chief, Carnegie Communications

Jul   2015



Words are powerful.

I know, I know. “Actions speak louder.” But think about the last time someone said something that made you really mad or happy or sad: a handful of words can make your heart race, can make you burst out laughing, can make you cry. Words can completely change the way you think about a person—or the way they think about you.

We’re judged on our communications skills all the time, from e-mails to professors to Skype interviews with potential employers to DMs to friends. You’re constantly communicating. But what are you really saying?

Avoiding certain words can make your message, even your attitude, more impactful and confident, whether you’re speaking or writing. Try omitting the following five words from your vocabulary. You may find you sound more confident than ever before.     


You can discuss gray areas and avoid offending people without the middling “maybe.” Make thoughtful and informed opinions so you can be decisive.


Unless it’s in the context of “justice,” “just” is a useless and timid word. There are better ways to impart nuance. 


Apologizing for your mistakes and accepting responsibility with haste and humility is important. But “sorry” gets thrown around far more often than necessary. Unless you legitimately messed up, what should you apologize for?


Obviously, you’re still going to use the word “I,” but if you make an effort to avoid it (when it makes sense), you’ll sound more authoritative. It’s science. For example, you can almost always cut the phrase “I think . . .” (Try it. I dare you.)


“That” definitely has its place in constructing clear sentences, but many people plug it in when not needed, detracting from the economy of words. “Here’s the story that I wrote” still makes perfect sense written as “Here’s the story I wrote.”

After considering the word schpeels above, take a gander at this sentence: “I’m sorry, but can you just try making the background white instead of gray, maybe?” Gross, right? People talk like that, often without realizing it. Don’t be that person.  And believe it or not, people won’t be offended if you’re more straightforward in your communication (not to be confused with brusqueness). In fact, they’ll often appreciate it.

P.S. Let’s talk about “No.” You’re going to need the word “no,” obviously. And there is strength and authority in “no.” However, there is also a finality to the word that can hold you back. Err on the side of positivity and possibility. Saying “yes” opens doors; “no” is the fastest way to close them.

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About Jessica Tomer

Jessica Tomer

Jessica is the Editor-in-Chief at Carnegie Communications. She is responsible for developing and copyediting content for Private Colleges & Universities, Public Colleges & Universities, Graduate Colleges & Universities, American Colleges & Universities, and CollegeXpress magazines. Like many of her fellow Emerson College alumni, Jessica is a news junkie and true bookworm.

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