There’s plenty of advice out there about words you should drop from your vocabulary. When it comes to public speaking, the list is pretty obvious. Avoid all likes and ums. Skip filler words like I feel like… and I think that… However, beyond the general advice, there are a couple other words to avoid that you may not have considered.

photo by Steven Simko

Carolyn Kopprasch, the chief customer officer at Buffer explains why we should try to leave out the word actually by saying, “It almost doesn’t matter how good the news is; if it comes after actually, I feel like I was wrong about something.” In other words, the word actually gives off a corrective tone, implying that your reader got something wrong. Here’s an example to help you visualize:

“Actually, it’s the same link we sent last week.” vs. “Sure, here’s the link to those hi-res images.”

See how the tone shifts into a more positive zone when you skip the word actually entirely? When it comes to dealing with clients and customers, this is a subtle distinction that can help you avoid ruffling feathers or hurting feelings.

photo by Kristen Kilpatrick

Kopprasch also discusses another word we should cut from all emails: but. Every time you use but, you’re automatically putting a negative spin on your thoughts. So why not just skip it? Here’s the example Kopprasch uses in her article:

“I really appreciate you writing in, but unfortunately we aren’t available.” vs. “I really appreciate you writing in! Unfortunately, we aren’t available.”

I don’t know about you, but if I’m getting bad news, I’d definitely prefer option #2. That friendly exclamation point doesn’t hurt either — just don’t overuse it!

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Comments (10)
  1. 1
    Laura October 16, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Great advice. I’ll bet we overuse “but” and “actually” in blog posts as well. I’m going to look back over some emails and post drafts to see if I’m guilty of both. Thanks for a useful heads up

  2. 2
    Homes & Weddings October 16, 2017 at 9:45 am

    Thank you for this. Makes a lot of sense.

  3. 3
    FashionNotFear October 16, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Great tips! I never thought about the negative effects of these words. But it makes perfect sense.

  4. 4
    Elisabeth Hayes October 16, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Great advice! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    xo, Elisabeth

  5. 5
    Kelly October 17, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    Good point! Thank you for those tips!

  6. 6
    Monique McClain October 21, 2017 at 9:42 am

    Thank you Lauren for sharing this enlightening article. Right after reading your entire page and comments I went straight to my emails and text messages. I then read and reviewed what I have been writing in my responses. Sure enough I caught some emails with negative thinking and filler words. Most of the words I had written have already been shared in the comment section of this article. However, I did catch a few I noticed I used quite a bit. “Okay so” and “I can’t” Those two stood out the most. Thanks to your advice I will now focus more on my wording before hitting the send button. Have a blessed day

  7. 7
    Shannon October 3, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    Thanks for a great article! As a mediator who teaches conflict resolution, I always tell students, “the but stops here”! In my world of conflict resolution, using “but” dismisses and negates everything that is said before it – creating tension and further conflict.

    I suggest the words “yes and” because they acknowledge the message in a positive tone and show collaboration by adding to it.


  8. 8
    Francesca October 6, 2019 at 8:42 pm

    My kids had a principal who told them exclamation points (!) should be used most sparingly. We tend to over use them in casual texts and emails. He asked them to imagine you jump a little in your seat when you read a sentence ending in an exclamation point and see how often you do it.



Molly Culver