Words to Never Say, Part Two

This week we’re aiming our guns at the word like. (You knew this was coming.) If you care about precision in language, or just sounding more professional, read on.

If you use like as in enjoying something, or having affection toward someone, or using a direct comparison (“like a bat out of hell”), then keep it up. That’s the proper usage of the word.

But this last decade or so has seen the word explode as a kind of all-purpose verb/adjective:

“He was, like, (facial expression), and I like, (arms and hands indicating removal from the scene).” In Olde English, this might have meant, “He was upset and I quickly walked in the opposite direction.”


“That item is, like, over there in that aisle.” So is it actually over there in that aisle, or does it only seem as if it might be over there?

I know of more than one talented young person whose every 10th word is like. They need to stop, perform a like-ectomy on their vocabulary, and carry on making more sense. Research indicates that this will help in job interviews. Seriously.

Try using “it was as if…” if that will help, and if it applies. But you may find, as with kinda and sorta, that taking the expression out of your mouth completely will simply have the effect of strengthening your speech. Be brave. You can do it!

Words to Never Say, Part One

We’re going to spend a few weeks on words that should never, ever come out of our mouths, or only in specific and precise contexts. Why? Re-read the subtitle to this blog.

Sometimes these words and expressions shouldn’t be spoken simply because they are inaccurate. Other times, we should refrain from using these words because they are a reflection of the growing disintegration of our society and culture. (Would that I were joking!). We don’t want to help that trend along.

Our first candidates for elimination from our vocabulary are kinda and sorta. Now I know that I’ve misspelled them. But I hope that by doing so, we’ll be reminded that this spelling simply reflects the sloppiness of speech that has brought these two “words” into such common use.

Once upon a time, “kind of “ and “sort of” were used sparingly and accurately, when they were employed to grant a hint of moderation or approximation into a phrase. An example would be: “That strange action was kind of sweet.” Or “She is kind of new to this company.”

The hesitation associated with this works well when describing some situations. But it dilutes our speech when we use it as it is more commonly being used these days.

I often listen to a podcast where the main speaker says “kinda” and “sorta” a great deal. Examples: “How did you kinda of begin your research on this time in history?” “Kinda begin”? Really!? “Tell me when you sorta got together with this director.” My head hurts. The person began and met—direct and simple (and accurate). It’s nearly as absurd as saying that someone “kinda came in first.”

It’s kinda, sorta as if we were afraid of being straightforward, clean, direct, and precise—which I believe is the reason behind this usage. Listen for it. You’ll find it everywhere. It’s common, but so are colds.

Just try to excise these two expressions from your speech for a week. You’ll realize 1) you didn’t really need them after all, and 2) your speech will grow stronger and more muscular by the day.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this experiment.

Next week: Just one word that, God help us, has to go!


Your mind has a week off with this easy one. It’s simple: Across doesn’t end with a “t”.

Keep your ears open. Lots of people add the letter “t” to across and it comes out sounding like ‘acrossed.”

Perhaps the “t” has been added because many of us say something like “We went across to the whatever….” We slide right from the “s” of across and right into the “t” of to.

That’s cool. But let’s leave the “t” with to when we don’t follow across with that word.

My apologies—you might start hearing “acrossed” all over the place now. I hope you don’t.