We know profanity is always inappropriate when speaking. There are, however, other words we should leave out of our speeches.
Do not say “you know” as an add on at the end of a sentence or any other time. Whether or not we know, the use of this meaningless expression takes away from the informational words that preceded it. Other meaningless expressions include “or something” or “thing.” Equally bad is some form of the verbalized pause which sounds like an extended “uuuuuuh” sound. Some people raise their voice with it and others go lower as they project this nonsensical sound. The way you say the sound doesn’t matter—just don’t make the sound. Instead of using any of the above, simply pause. Pauses catch attention so that people listen with anticipation.
Another phrase to avoid in speaking is “you guys.” Any sexist term—however innocent—is inappropriate. If you say “you guys,” then you should also add, “… and gals” to make the sentence politically correct. Simply say “you” or “all of you.” If you are in the South, “You all” is fine. Don’t use marking (unnecessarily referring to specific gender) when speaking, whatever the context. This would include avoiding “waitress,” “fireman,” or “mailman.” Instead say “server,” “fire fighter,” and “mail carrier.”
Don’t say “most unique.” Unique means one of a kind. Often to show how significant an idea is, the speaker will say, “That is one of the most unique traits of all.” The item cannot be the most if it is one of a kind. Instead, say, “That is one of the most unusual traits of all.”
Don’t say, “Let me be honest with you,” or “Let me be frank with you.” That implies that you were not being honest or open with the audience until you made those statements. If you want to emphasize a point beyond others you have made, say, “Probably the most important point I will make is…” or “I must admit to you that…”
Don’t say “In conclusion…” unless you mean it. Too many speakers say the words and then take another five minutes to finish. Sometimes they will even say the word “conclusion” another time before finishing.
Choice of words has great impact on the way the audience responds to you. These simple suggestions will help you be more effective in your next presentation.
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©Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is a professor of speech communication at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky. He works with organizations that want to speak and listen more effectively to increase personal and professional performance. He can be reached at 800-727-6520 or visit www.sboyd.com for valuable articles and resources to improve your communication skills.