Office and Admin Professional Development

How to be Professional at Work

Written by Peter Jones

While you don’t want to create a phony professional persona at work that doesn’t make you feel comfortable or like you’re being yourself, there are a few words that should be stricken from your vocabulary—at least at the office, if not beyond.

These are words that, fairly or unfairly, can easily undermine your credibility and professionalism. Don’t give anyone an excuse to doubt you.

Just say no to:


“I like pizza” is fine. So are similes: “that sunset is like a painting.” So is the thing you do on Facebook. What isn’t fine is using this word as conversational filler, or a verbal tic. “She’s, like, so pretty; it, like, hurts to look at her. I’m like… wow.” Do yourself a favor and try to notice every time you say “like” in these bad ways for a few hours, or a day. Then try and charge yourself a dollar every time you do it. It’s a tough habit to notice—even tougher to break—but it has to be done.


There’s nothing wrong with this one, grammatically. It just implies… well, not getting the job done. In a work environment, when you’re trying to convince peers and superiors of your capabilities and butt-kicking potential, you can find a better way to express yourself than “almost.”

“You know”

This is a lazy bit of conversational filler. The person you are talking to either does or doesn’t know what you mean. Try reading their cues to see which is which. If they do know, stop talking; you’ve already made your point. If they don’t, try to explain what you mean more clearly.


This is like “almost.” In the immortal words of Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.” There are ways to convey failed, yet valiant attempts without using the word and implying that you’ve given up. Try it!


If wishes were horses… Well, you get the picture. Every time you’re tempted to say “wish,” change it to “will.” You’ll get a whole lot more done if you’re constantly challenging yourself to put your money where your mouth is. Same goes for “might!”


This word has been ruined by overuse. Unless you’re very specifically conveying that you are not exaggerating, strike “literally” from your vocabulary. Most people use it nowadays when they are, in fact, exaggerating—in an ironic way. If you don’t know exactly what you’re trying to convey when using this word, chances are you’re using it wrong. Better not to use it at all.

About the author

Peter Jones