You Need To Ban These 8 Words From Your Workplace Vocabulary

We’re all guilty of doing it: peppering our sentences, emails and text messages with “just”, “sorry” and “maybe”. It may seem harmless, and you might think you’re coming across as easy-going, but using these words can undermine your authority and weaken your rhetoric.

Wield the below words wisely, and pay close attention to how often you include them in your emails and conversations — you may come to realise how truly redundant they are.

#1 “Just”

The word “just” has been thrown around so much lately that one woman invented a Chrome app to erase all traces of it from emails. Most of us have dropped the “just” bomb when trying not to sound too commanding or forceful, but it can definitely damage your authority. Think about how different “I wanted to check in on…” and “I just wanted to check in on…” sound. The first doesn’t sound unfriendly or rude – but you definitely know what the speaker is after. Meanwhile, the second statement is already self-sabotaging by essentially asking for permission. There are very few instances when the word “just” is warranted. Just. Hit. Delete.


#2 “Sorry”

How many times a day do you use the word “sorry” when you haven’t done anything wrong? We dare you to count, because we bet it’s a lot. From needlessly apologising when you’re using the microwave in the work kitchen while someone waits, to starting a sentence with “Sorry, but have you done XYZ yet?”, plenty of us are overusing this word. It’s unnecessary to apologise for heating up your food or for asking a simple question – it may lead others to wonder in what other scenarios you’ll struggle to stand your ground. Only use this word when you’ve actually done something wrong; we bet omitting it will make you look more convincing, and definitely more in control.

#3 “Does that make sense?”

Ever been explaining something to a colleague or superior and added “does that make sense?” at the end? Us too. And it’s totally superfluous. At best it makes you sound unsure of what you’re saying, and at worst it can make you look as though you don’t trust in the other person’s intelligence. Unless you are explaining molecular biology to a banker, it probably makes sense; they will tell you if it doesn’t. Erase. Erase. Erase.

#4 “!!!”

Look back at the last email you sent. Does it have a liberal sprinkling of exclamation marks? Think about why you put those in there. Are you telling the recipient they’ve won the lottery, or that you’re pregnant? Didn’t think so. More than likely you’ve inserted them in there to make yourself seem more likeable. But you know what? There’s nothing wrong with a good, assertive full stop. Not everyone in the workplace has to be your best friend, and not every email needs to end with a bang.

#5 “I’m not sure, but…”

How many times have you inserted the words “I’m not sure, but” before explaining something you actually do know about? “I’m not sure, but I think you have to click on the file to open it”, “I’m not sure, but I think Abby said she’s going to lunch.” You know you have to click on the file to open it and you definitely know Abby has gone to lunch, because she said so.


Qualifying your statements with this phrase is an attempt to absolve yourself of any responsibility over what you are saying. If your boss clicks on the file and it doesn’t open, or it turns out Abby was getting her nails done, you want to cover your arse. But this also diminishes the strength of your words, and makes other people doubt your abilities. If you are sure, say it like you mean it.

#6 “Is that OK?”

Stop asking permission when you don’t need to. If you are sick and need to take the day off, don’t ask if it’s OK that you aren’t coming in to work. If your boss asks when you’ll have that report in, don’t ask whether it’s OK to have it on her desk in an hour — especially if you can’t finish it any sooner. In short, use your “is that OK?” quota wisely. Ask if it’s OK if you take three weeks of annual leave in November, ask if it’s OK to bring a plus one to the Christmas party. Only ask if it’s OK if you are genuinely unsure of the response.

#7 “Maybe”

It’s wishy-washy, it portrays uncertainty and it’s way overused. “Maybe” is another of those words that conveys to others that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Stick to a simple “yes” or “no” where you can. If you can do something, say so; if you can’t, say no. “Maybe” reeks of a lack of confidence, and this in turn will result in others losing confidence in you.

#8 “Like”

Ah, like. We’ve been trying to remove it from our vocabulary since teen movie overload in the early naughts.


Exhibit A.

Despite our best efforts, it’s crept into our office lexicon, starting off sentences and filling in gaps where it doesn’t belong. While this word isn’t as demonstrative of a lack of confidence or authority as some of the others on this list, it basically ensures you come off looking like a bit of a ditz. You’ve been warned.

Che-Marie Trigg is a freelance writer and full-time subeditor. Her work has appeared in Virgin Australia Voyeur, Collective Hub and GoPlaces with Toyota magazines among others, as well as on websites like Broadsheet and Junkee. Follow her on Instagram @chemariet.

Lead image: The Mindy Project, Fox