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10 More Phrases to Never, Ever Use at Work

Updated on June 2, 2022Professionals

Professional communication can feel like a careful balancing act. You want to keep up with the latest business jargon, but you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes in the process.

We already covered some outdated terms and clichés in our last post on the subject. Now we’re taking on some phrases that may seem innocuous, or even helpful—until you think about what message they’re really sending.

For your edification (and your next promotion), here are ten more words and phrases you should never use at work.

Here’s a tip:  Grammarly runs on powerful algorithms developed by the world’s leading linguists, and it can save you from misspellings, hundreds of types of grammatical and punctuation mistakes, and words that are spelled right but used in the wrong context. Learn More 


1 “Let me know”

It’s easy to tag this catchall phrase onto the end of your emails, but it doesn’t translate into action. If you want results, take some initiative.

“Let me know when you’re free to meet.”
“I’m available to meet on Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. Which time works for you?”

“Let me know how I can help.”
“I’ll call Kevin to get an estimate for you.”

2 “You Look Tired”

Someone who “looks tired” already knows—you don’t need to point it out. And since this phrase is synonymous with “you look terrible,” don’t expect a positive response.

If you notice someone seems tired and you’re genuinely concerned for them, try one of these phrases on for size:

“Hey, how are you doing today?”

“I’m grabbing coffee at Starbucks, would you like anything?”

“You’ve been putting in a lot of time on this project. Is there anything I can help you with?”

3 “Just”

You may be using “just” to soften the tone of your message, but it could communicate that what you’re saying isn’t especially important.

Removing “just” from your vocabulary conveys confidence in your actions. If you know what you need, go ahead and ask for it.

“Sorry to bother you, I just want to check in on your progress on the report due tomorrow.”

“How’s progress on the report coming along? I look forward to reviewing it tomorrow.”

4 “I think” / “I feel”

It’s time to let the security blanket go. These qualifying phrases may feel safe, but they’re undermining your credibility. Constantly using “I think” communicates a lack of confidence in your ideas and abilities. Instead, ditch the qualifiers and make assertive statements like:

“I can get my completed article to you by 5:00 p.m.”

“This is the best plan for the new campaign.”

5 “It’s not fair”

We all hate to feel injustice, but how you respond to difficult circumstances is your choice.

Instead of pouting, channel that frustration into useful action. What can you do to address the issue? Use facts rather than feelings to argue your case.

“It’s not fair that Kevin gets to go to the conference instead of me.”

“I’ve put in over 20 hours creating this presentation and am the most comfortable talking about the material. It makes sense for me to be the lead presenter at the conference.”

6 “OMG, did you hear about Kevin?”

Who doesn’t love the inside scoop? (Especially about Kevin.) But gossiping at work is in poor taste, and could have negative consequences for your career.

If you feel the need to vent, do your kvetching with a non-work friend. And if you have a conflict with someone, talk to them directly—or, if appropriate, talk with your company’s human resources department.

7 “I’ll try”

So, will you do what I requested or not? Instead of using this wishy-washy phrase, boost your coworkers’ confidence in you by clearly setting expectations.

“I won’t be able to write the report today, but I can have it to you by noon tomorrow.”

“I’ll research how to do that and will check in with Kevin if I need assistance.”

8 “It’s not my fault”

We’re all adults. No matter whose fault it is, you’ll get more respect if you explain the situation in a professional manner.

Take responsibility for your own actions, and explain the mistakes of others without throwing them under the bus. And be honest about what was and wasn’t outside of your team’s control.

9 “Maybe it’s stupid, but…”

It’s natural to fear the critique of others, but using this qualifier imposes a negative lens on your thoughts before your audience has a chance to evaluate your statement for themselves.

Instead of self-sabotaging, practice stating your ideas with confidence.

“I have an idea for our next project. It’s different from what we usually do, and I think this could give us some new results.”

10 “Sorry”

By all means, apologize when you’re accepting responsibility for an error you’ve made. But let’s take a moment to think about how woefully overused this little word is.

“I’m sorry, but could you have the presentation ready by noon?”
“I’ll need the presentation ready by noon so we’ll have time to review it. I greatly appreciate your work on this.”

“Sorry I’m late to our meeting.”
“Thank you so much for waiting. Let’s get started!”

“Sorry, I won’t have the article ready on time.”
“I’ll need to postpone the article until Thursday. Two of my interviewees weren’t available until today.”

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