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100 Words that instantly make you sound dumber

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

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?

61. Nauseous

Definition: disgusting (as in a smell); able to create nausea

Not to be confused with noxious, which implies the potential for actual harm. It's best to say, "nauseated" when referring to the feeling of nausea. Many still refuse to accept nauseous as a reference to the physical result of nauseous substances or situations.

62. Never

Definition: at no time; to no extent or degree

This is one that will get you into trouble after the fact. Instead, say something is improbable (which leaves room for it to be possible).

63. Nonplussed

Definition: so surprised you're not sure how to react; confused

As long as you use it correctly, you're a rock star. Somehow, people in the U.S. began using this to mean unperturbed, the opposite of its true meaning.

64. No problem

Definition: often used as slang for "you're welcome"

The issue here is when you use it more than the phrase itself. If you're a waiter, it's obviously no problem to get a customer's tea. Reserve it for situations in which the person thanking you could perceive that you actually went out of your way. For example, helping someone move.

65. Nucular vs. nuclear

The word is pronounced NEW-CLEE-UR.

66. Of

Definition: a preposition or auxiliary verb often used in place of "have"

It's funny how such a small word can trip you up. It's "should have, would have, could have;" not "should of, would of, could of."

67. Often

Definition: with frequency

This one is somewhat controversial, but many modern English speakers recoil at the pronunciation of this word with the T. While either is technically acceptable, pronouncing it with a silent T is the safest bet.


Definition: initialisms used in texting to represent frequently used words and phrases

These have no place in business communications (though BTW is acceptable when communicating with colleagues you know well via email or text). They should never be spoken by anyone over the age of 18.

69. Orientate

Another nonstandard back-formation (see conversate). Acceptable in many regions of the U.S. and U.K., it nonetheless grates on the nerves of grammar nerds everywhere. Use orient, even if you're not referring to the East.

70. Peruse

Definition: to examine thoroughly

This is a great word, but not if you'd like someone to take a detailed look.

Up Next: More words that instantly make you sound dumber

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