Career Advice

10 Words and Phrases That Make You Look Like an Amateur

Shot of a group of young business professionals having a meeting.

Workplace jargon is no joke – you might not think about the words and phrases you use on a daily basis, but it’s time you start paying attention.  Why? There are a few words and phrases that make you look like an amateur–and whether or not you’re aware of some of the words you’re saying, your boss or manager has probably noticed.

If you’re starting a new job, consider the culture and environment of your office to help you best understand what words and phrases should be avoided. And if you’re currently employed, it’s best to look through this guide and keep an ear out for any phrases you might be saying. If you catch yourself – start working on cutting them out of your vocabulary!

Here are some of the top words and phrases that you need to start avoiding today.

1. “Like, um…”

If you think your co-workers and your boss don’t pick up on how often you say “Like” or “Um” in a sentence, think again. Someone who constantly uses these two filler words is often seen as the annoying co-worker–and you don’t want to be that person in the office! The real issue here is that you’re trying to pause while talking, so using the filler words “like,” and “um,” makes you sound unconfident, which isn’t the best way to be perceived by your peers. 

How can you avoid using these words? How do you even know how many times you say them in a day? Count them in your head when you say it, or, better yet, ask a friend or co-worker to tell you when you’ve said them. This will help you kick the habit!

2. “This might be wrong…but”

This phrase is a clear indicator that you’re feeling insecure, but are afraid to ask for help. Moreover, it also implies that you don’t even believe what you’re saying. When you start your sentence this way, it makes you look like an amateur because you sound uncertain and unconfident. Imagine saying this during a presentation–why should anyone keep listening if you’re not sure about what you’re saying?

3. “No problem…”

It sounds nice–and you are probably being nice when you say this–but saying “No problem,” always sounds less enthusiastic. When someone says “Thank you,” “You’re welcome” is the proper response and it sends more gratitude to the person, as opposed to a shrug.

4. “I think…, you know…”

These two phrases signal a lack of confidence to your co-workers and manager. Starting a sentence with “I think,” implies that you are not 100% confident about what you’re about to say next. And ending a sentence with the phrase, “you know?” often implies that someone is not following what you’re saying, which can also make that person feel that you are talking down to them. 

If you catch these phrases rolling off your tongue, try to stop them next time. Instead of saying, “I think,” be more direct. Don’t say, “I think we should reschedule the meeting,” and say, “We should reschedule the meeting.” It sounds simple, but once you start to pay attention to these phrases, you’ll learn that you say it more than you should. The key is listening to yourself when you talk, or asking a friend to let you if you continue to use the phrase.

5. “I feel like…”

Similarly, this phrase shows that you lack confidence or that you haven’t thought through what you’re about to say. When you do use this phrase, you are usually thinking aloud and trying to form an idea–so it might feel natural to say this…but it has a more negative impact than you might think. Remove this phrase and simply say what’s on your mind.

6. “Does that make sense?”

When explaining something to a co-worker, adding the phrase “Does that/did that make sense?” is one of the worst ways to end a sentence. It makes you sound condescending. If the person you are talking to is confused, they will ask a question. So when you ask if what you said makes sense, it comes off more authoritative, even if you were just trying to be kind. 

7. “Hey, guys!”

Using the term “guys” might not initially sound harmful to you, but it’s time we all stopped referring each other as “guys” because the term “guys” refers to the male sex. When you say “Hey guys” or “good job guys” to a group of co-workers that do not all identify as male, you’re ignoring the rest of the group. Consider using “they/them” pronouns and saying “hey folks,” or “good job everyone” instead.

8. “I’ll try”

When your boss or a co-worker asks you to do something, saying “I’ll try to get it done,” or “I’ll try to get to that today,” implies that you are over-worked or that they are asking too much from you. Instead of using this phrase, simply be honest. If you don’t think you can take on what they are asking, tell them that. It’s much better to be honest than to sound flaky by using the words, “I’ll try.”

9. “I need a drink…”

Even if your workplace is casual and allows you to drink at the end of your shift, stating that you “need a drink,” doesn’t sit well with most co-workers. Even if you’re laughing with co-workers about something that happened at work, the more you do this, the more people will notice and worry about your drinking habits–which is not a good picture to paint of yourself to your co-workers. 

10. “Let me know”

Lastly, this is the phrase that many workers use to end an e-mail or conversation. What this does though is it implies that you haven’t made up your mind, or that you want the other person to do the work and make the decision. It may seem innocent, but using this phrase to close out a conversation sends the message that you can’t make the final decision and need your co-worker or boss to do so for you.


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