Practical Communication

Resolution for 2012: Eliminate These 5 Words From Our Vocabulary

Most people don’t like to make New Year’s Resolutions because they don’t last much past January 10th. However, this year, I’m making this one– to eliminate these words from my vocabulary. Any other offenders out there who would like to join me, come on!

1. Like– I’m not saying we should never use the word like, but I’m tired of hearing it as a filler when we should really just be pausing…silently,. “I was going to the store, and like, this guy, he like took my parking spot and I like gave him a dirty look,” becomes, “As I attempted to park my vehicle in a parking space at a local establishment, an impolite gentleman maneuvered his car in front of me and occupied the space where I’d planned to park.”

2. Can’t–
The word can’t is a show stopper. As soon as you say you can’t do something, you never will because you won’t even get started. Either change the word to “can,” or say, “I choose not to ___,” instead. You might even say, “won’t,” because at least you’re indicating that you’ve taken control of the situation and made a choice, rather than implying something or someone is keeping you from doing something.

For example, to say, “I can’t lose weight,” is a ridiculous phrase. If someone wired your jaw shut and chained you to a moving treadmill, you’d lose weight.

You’re CHOOSING NOT TO do what needs to be done to lose weight and you WON’T lose weight until you make different choices.

3. Try– Saying “I’ll try,” basically dooms you to failure. In fact, when most people say they’ll try, they usually know already that they’re not going to do the thing they’re saying they’ll try to do. If it’s a request from someone else that you don’t want to do, just learn to say no. Otherwise, replace “I’ll try,” with “I will.”

4. Should– Whether used to guilt yourself into doing something, “I really should exercise more,” or used when you’re procrastinating, “I really should get started on my taxes,” the word “should” causes a negative mindset and actually increases desire not to do the task. Instead of saying “should,” say, “I choose to ___,” and finish the sentence with what you need to do AND why you need to do it. “I choose to get started on my taxes so I’m not stressed like I was last year when I waited until the last minute.”

5. But– The word “but” basically eliminates or discounts everything you stated before you say it. “He’s a really nice guy, but…,” “Yes, I like your tie, but…” “No, your butt doesn’t look big, but…” Sentences like these aren’t going to end well. The other shoe is going to drop and what the speaker really thinks or feels is coming.

Instead of using the word “but” to tie a positive to a negative thought, keep the ideas separate. “Bob is a really nice guy. He’s also a perfectionist, so be sure to double check your work before you submit it to him.”


I’m sticking to these five for now, to make this resolution more manageable. However, there are many more words and phrases we should all try to eliminate from our speech.

What other words/phrases would you add to this list?

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