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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?

31. Fewer vs. less

Fewer refers to quantity, or something that can be counted. (Jenny has fewer quarters than Sally.) Less implies mass, volume or amount. (Sally has less money than Jenny.)

32. Fixing to

Definition: slang meaning about to, going to (usually Southern)

The phrase is common in some dialects, but is nonetheless colloquial. Instead, use "about to" or "going to."

33. Gay

Definition: cheerful or merry; homosexual

When referring to an object that's cheerful or an openly gay male, this term is acceptable. Do not use it as a synonym for "lame." It's both potentially offensive and a misuse of the term.

34. Gazillion

Definition: an extremely large number; a lot

Technically, it's not a nonsense word. It has its place (for example, when you know it's a lot, but have no idea how many). But in discussions relating to business, it's unprofessional and hyperbolic.

35. Ginormous

Definition: extremely huge

It can be a well-placed adjective in informal speech to make a point, but in a professional setting, it sounds juvenile. Try gargantuan instead.

36. Gobsmacked

Definition: astounded

While this word is most commonly used in the U.K. (it's a fun one that's making an appearance in the U.S.), it shouldn't be avoided overall. But note that it's not God-smacked.

37. Good

Definition: positive, pleasing

Good is a good word... unless you mean well. You do good work. (Adjective) You mean well. (Adverb)

38. Gots

Got is the past tense of get. At no time is there a reason for it to be plural.

39. Guess-timate

Definition: to estimate with little or no data

Guess-timation has no place in a serious conversation. It's a fruitless exercise as it's based on a total lack of information in the first place. If it's based on knowledge, evidence or at least some data you have, it's just an estimate.

40. Height

Definition: vertical length

You'll note that there's no H after the T. It's HITE, not HITETH.

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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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