Bite Your Tongue, Literally: Unspeakable Speech & You, Part 3

IMG_9905When it comes to dining, nutritionists like to point out that “you are what you eat”. While this is a fact, it’s not always evident on the surface. In the business world, it’s safe to assume that “you are what you say”, meaning, the words and phrases you speak can define you to others, as speech is out in the open.

With this in mind, it could be time for a reality check when it comes to the misguided, tacky and downright problematic things you may have gotten used to saying. Ironically, it’s not the cuss words or the classic grammatical errors that are the modern offenders; today’s linguistic “unusual suspects” are disguised as trendy alternatives to long-established informal speech, having sneakily oozed their way into formal dialogue. For many of them, the origins are in popular culture and high-school hallways, both of which are famously incompatible with the business world.  

Below, I’ve created a basic reference chart of today’s most common spoken offenders and what you ought to be32 saying instead to optimize your character. Just a skim through it will reveal some real beauties that most of us are guilty of perpetuating. This is not a cause for panic; have fun with it, but ultimately, take it seriously, and make a conscious effort to change your game. As is the nature of a chart, this one just begs to be added to. Respond with your 21st century linguistic faux pas, and contribute to raising awareness.


Don’t Say:



When You


The Reason







The word “email”, like the word “mail”, is inherently plural. It doesn’t need a final “s”. The same rule applies to the word “voicemail”.






This contemporary abbreviation of “pictures” is meant to be written, not spoken. When spoken, it can be mistaken as the word “picks”.


My Bad



My Mistake

The word “bad” can only be an adjective. When “my bad” arose in 90’s pop culture, it was informal by design. The speaker who uses it formally will come across as uneducated.


No Problem


No Worries



You’re Welcome


My Pleasure

When you are thanked, it’s courteous to reply with similar warmth. Implying that your deed fell short of a burden comes off as arrogant and unprofessional.


Wanna get me a….?




Could you please get me a…?

The former always sounds condescending, demanding, entitled and rude, whether or not you meant it that way. Zap it from your grammar entirely.








I would say…

“So” in its conjunctive form should be used to connect two thoughts, much like “therefore”. Beginning a response with “So,” instead of “Well,” is not only grammatically awkward, it can be seen as a pompous device to install objectivity into your statement.   


Speaks to…



Speaks about…





The ultra-modern idiom “speaks to” is merely filler for what should be a more specific verbal phrase. While it’s meant to make you sound distinguished, it will only make your point seem shallow.









The two are antonyms. Somewhere along the line, “literally” literally took on its opposite meaning, perhaps because saying “figuratively” lacks verbal impact. Today, it’s not just misused, it’s over-misused.



Pissed off



Ticked off

Just because your language is FCC-approved doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Plain and simple: it’s gritty and impolite to speak any variation on the word “piss”. Keep it clean, and you’ll command respect.  

Click here to read Part 1 of this language series, and here to read Part 2.