dcsimg
You are here:

The Vocab of Success: The Fine Line between Feeling Confident and Sounding Like a Jerk

So you've survived the interview, and have your eye on the boss' corner office. To get there, you'll need to impress clients, co-workers, and management. Boosting your vocabulary is a great way to communicate that you're brainy and brazen enough to move up the corporate ladder.  However, misuse of high-level vocabulary can make you look like a toolbag. Here are a few pitfalls to avoid.

1) Don't use words if you're not absolutely certain of their meanings! Incorrectly using a big word in front of the boss will quickly get you on the fast track to infamy. A great (or terrible) example is a well-known flub by a college basketball player. He described himself as "mphibious" because he could dribble with both his left and right hands! Of course, he meant "ambidextrous," but he made himself the laughing-stock of the sports world for misusing a word. Don't be that guy!

2)Be very careful to pronounce newly learned words correctly. It's one thing to know what a word means when you read it. It may be an entirely different matter when you attempt to integrate that word into conversation. When asking the boss whether it will be your prerogative to choose the caterer for the office party, take care not to pronounce it "perogative." And you'll order a selection of potent potables for the party, not "pottables." Most dictionary websites now have sound bytes of correct pronunciations, so there's no excuse for stumbling over words.

3)Just because your friends use a word in a certain way, never assume that your friends' usage is accurate. There are hundreds of words for which common usage has taken a departure from the dictionary definition. A great example is the word "epic." Kids, epic does not mean "really cool." When used as an adjective, it means "on a grand scale." Hence an epic battle is a conflict that's large or very important. Your friend's pool party can't really qualify as epic (unless there are about 1,000 people showing up). Another commonly misused word is "tirade," which means "an angry speech," despite popular culture leading you to believe it's some sort of murderous crime spree. If you've never come across a word in writing, take care to look it up before trying it out on the company president.

4)Avoid non-words at all costs. The classic example is "irregardless." It's not a word, even though your parents, friends, and even bosses may use it. An example in current events was Sarah Palin's neologism "refudiate." Despite her defense that she intended to make-up a word, it's clear she simply combined refute and repudiate. Just because something sounds like it should be a word, that doesn't mean it IS a word.

The simplest rule of thumb is to only use new words from trustworthy sources. If your doctor friend uses a word, chances are she's using it correctly. If Sarah Palin uses a word you've never heard, that should be a red flag. Now go out there and impress the boss (after you've pulled out your trusty dictionary)!

--
Jennifer Cohen is the President and Chief Word-Nerd at Word-Nerd.com, a site devoted to SAT and PSAT vocabulary prep.

Search Schools

      
Matching School Ads
  • Stratford Career Institute

    Earn Your Diploma from Home!

    Programs

    • Electrician
    • Early Childhood Education
    • Funeral Service Education
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Stratford Career Institute Request Info »
  • Syracuse Communications

    Communications@Syracuse is an online Master of Science in Communications from the world-renowned S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
     

    Programs

    • Master of Science in Communications

    Location: Online

    Syracuse Communications Request Info »
  • USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

    The MSW@USC is the first top-ranked MSW program offered nationally. Many online programs are limited to certain geographic areas or the availability of courses, making it necessary to travel to campus. Our program can be completed from virtually anywhere without the need to relocate to Southern California.

    Programs

    • Master of Social Work
    Location:
    Los Angeles: 3601 Watt Way, GFS-315, Los Angeles CA 90089
    USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Request Info »
  • Simmons College School of Social Work

    Programs

    • Master of Social Work
    Location:
    Boston: 300 The Fenway, Boston MA 02115
    Simmons College School of Social Work Request Info »
  • Penn Foster Schools

    Advance your career with our affordable, self-paced, career-focused distance education programs.

    Programs

    • HVACR Technician
    • Diesel Mechanics
    • Veterinary Assistant
    • More...
    Location:
    Scranton: , Scranton PA 18515
    Penn Foster Schools Request Info »
  • Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences

    Nursing@Simmons, the innovative, online nursing degree program from Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences prepares Registered Nurses for the next stage of their careers.

    You need to have a Bachelor’s degree and RN license to be qualified for this school.

    Programs

    • MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner
    • RN to MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner
    Location:
    Boston: 300 The Fenway,, Boston MA 02115
    Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences Request Info »
  • Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University

    Located in the heart of Washington, D.C. the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University is dedicated to advancing the health of local, national and global communities.

    You need to have a Bachelor’s degree to be qualified for this school.

    Programs

    • Master of Public Health
    • Executive Master of Health Administration
    Location:
    Washington: 2121 I St NW, , Washington DC 20052
    Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University Request Info »
  • Simmons College School of Communication

    Communications@Simmons prepares students to become leaders who achieve their organizational, professional, and personal goals through a strategic integration of communications theory and practice.

    ·

    Programs

    • MS in Communication
    Location:
    Boston: , Boston MA 02115
    Simmons College School of Communication Request Info »
  • Animal Behavior College

    Interested in a career as a professional dog trainer? Animal Behavior College is the place to start.

    Programs

    • Veterinary Assistant
    • Grooming Instruction
    • Certified Dog Trainer Instructor Course

    Location: Online

    Animal Behavior College Request Info »
  • Blue Cliff College - Online

    You’ve expressed interest in Blue Cliff College before, now we have online programs to better fit your busy lifestyle. Enroll now!

    Programs

    • Health Information/Medical Billing & Coding

    Location: Online

    Blue Cliff College - Online Request Info »
  • Matching School Ads

    Quick School Search

    College & Career Search Tools

    • Careers: Unsure about your career path? Study profiles of hundreds of professions.

    • Interviews: Professors and deans sit down with our team to give you unique insights on college life.

    • Military Education: Find only Military friendly online schools and campuses.

    • Student Reviews: Know before you go. Read student reviews on over 2000 accredited colleges. Write your own experience.