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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?

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.

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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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