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Dumb woman
Speak up

Open mouth, insert foot

The way you speak with friends may be inappropriate in a professional situation. Are you sabotaging your career with any of these words that make you sound less than intelligent?

91. Upmost vs. utmost

Most of the time, you mean utmost (with a T), which is to the highest degree; most extreme. (The utmost respect.) However, upmost (also uppermost) is actually a word, though it's not frequently used in the U.S. or in this century. Back in the day, it referred to something situated at the top. (The upmost step of the ladder.)

92. Vehicle

The H is silent. It's VEE-I-CUHL, not VEE-HI-CUHL.

93. Wary vs. weary

Wary means you're suspicious. Weary means you're tired. You can be both wary and weary of spiders, but if they scare you, use wary. It's easy to remember because weary has an E (for exhausted).

94. Whatever

Definition: an exclamation used to indicate the listener's annoyance with the speaker's point or that they have no opinion or preference (slang)

It's OK to use whatever as an appropriate adjective or pronoun (whatever the reason, whatever you do), but it's best to avoid the slang version, especially as an expression of annoyance.

95. Whom

Definition: the objective case of the personal pronoun who

Many people think tossing whom into a sentence makes them sound smarter. But "whom" has a specific use in the English language.

96. Ya'll/you all/yous

Definition: bastardization of the second person plural

Instead, just say "you." Even if you mean a group of people.

97. You know

Definition: a phrase often tacked onto a statement soliciting the listeners agreement

It can be difficult for some people to converse with others who constantly solicit input. It's best to make your statement. If they don't know, they'll ask questions.

98. Yummy

Definition: delicious, tasty

Perfectly acceptable in informal speaking or writing, but can come off as childish in a professional setting.

99. Zoned out

Definition: not paying attention, usually inadvertently allowing the mind to wander

Fine in informal speech, but stick with inattentive in a less formal situation.

100. Slang words of address

Definition: words that apply generically to an individual in place of his or her name

Avoid Dude, Bro, Dawg, Friend, Chica, etc.

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Comments on "100 Words that instantly make you sound dumber"

namo March 10, 2014 | 8:47 PM

"Could care less" is an idiom for goodness sake and is generally understood as such in much the same way that we all know that "fat chances" are the same as "slim ones" !!! This particular "correction" is popular but nonsensical for the reason stated and is,frankly, rather pretentious.

K January 20, 2014 | 4:02 PM

Heather Barnett, you really should have thought about your own knowledge of the English language before taking it upon yourself to write an article on correct word usage. It seems as though most of the comments here are corrections. Speaking of which, I have one more to add to that list. Saying "photographic memory" is okay when used correctly. You wouldn't automatically be wrong in saying that. It's true that it is often used interchangeably with the term "eidetic memory", but rest assured that these are, in fact, two different things.

Topher January 17, 2014 | 11:22 PM

#27 There is no such word as expresso. Coffee made in a French press is simply coffee.

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No name August 27, 2013 | 5:17 PM

Disregard my post about "contentious" -- I misread the entry. Sorry!

Sarah August 27, 2013 | 3:46 PM

In number 16, I think the writer means "apathetic" rather than "ambivalent."

No name August 27, 2013 | 2:57 PM

Many of these are good, but you're wrong about "contentious." One definition is "likely to cause an argument." In that sense, "controversial" is a synonym.

Warren August 14, 2013 | 2:08 AM

The writer of this piece misused the word "hopefully" in one of her examples. In my eyes, she seemed "less than intelligent" because of this.

May August 11, 2013 | 2:54 PM

Hmm, #51's example use of "ironically" is just a situation of bad luck; the two events are completely unrelated. How about "Ironically, Telisia had declared bankruptcy the day before learning of her $5 million lottery win" instead?

Linda July 25, 2013 | 6:19 PM

I always thought "orientated" was incorrect, until I looked it up. It is, indeed, correct.

teresa July 23, 2013 | 5:54 PM

How about "supposably" and "functionable"?

Lisa Mack July 23, 2013 | 12:16 PM

You're missing my favorite! Reinterate!!

Julie July 22, 2013 | 5:09 PM

And "verbiage" doesn't make it on either list, I'm gobsmacked...

Unita July 22, 2013 | 12:31 AM

Hi. This is very good. Please check #77 and #78, though....looks like we have the same explanation for both :)

Matt July 21, 2013 | 12:39 PM

Oh geez, look at #55: "OK in it's other uses..." Misuse of its and it's should be #1 on this list (yeah, it's alphabetical, but you know what I mean...)! I would call this ironic(al), but I'm sure somebody out there is ready to, um, school me on how that concept is itself misapplied.

Dixie July 17, 2013 | 8:31 PM

My husband and I argue over the use/meaning of the word attribute versus contribute. I say attribute means to give credit to but the dictionary shows both words to have such similar meanings that I don't know how to help him to understand that attribute is correct. Can you give me a good example of how each word should be used?

Rob Kaiser July 17, 2013 | 12:18 PM

Good list, but you left out "utilize."

Cristina Sierra July 17, 2013 | 10:16 AM

Heather, I want to point out a small error - Irregardless is not a word except in Boston where it IS a word but it is pronounced IrreGAHdless. No need for the "r". JK :-) Thanks for the list!

Candice July 17, 2013 | 8:24 AM

This is a great list! I just want to point out a quick mistake. Peruse means "to examine thoroughly," but people often use it as a synonym for skim.

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