The One Word That Makes You Sound Stupid

Posted August 8, 2013 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

‘There’s a Yoplait commercial playing right now with Lisa Kudrow’s voice in the background. It goes something like this. “You were like, hey Yoplait, we don’t want high fructose corn syrup in our yogurt. And then we were like, you’re right, we’ll remove it. And then we were like, but what about Yoplait lights? And you were like, yeah, that too.” And the commercial goes on and on.

And while this very funny Yoplait commercial is making fun of the use of the word “like” in our current vernacular, the truth of the matter is, it’s not something to laugh at. In fact, somehow our society has entirely forgotten how to describe the act of having a conversation. I’m not going to berate you for using the word “like” in every instance. It’s become such a strong part of our vocabulary, I can’t expect you to stop it all together. But today, I’m asking you eliminate it in a very specific area of your life – describing a conversation.

The words “I was like,” and then “he was like,” and then “we were like.” Makes any conversation sound banal and unintelligent. Instead, I’d like to give you a list of words to replace “like” with in just this one instance:

  • Said (the easiest really. Why would you use “I was like” instead of saying “I said” at all?)
  • Exlaimed
  • Cursed
  • Proclaimed
  • Conveyed
  • Spoke
  • Yelled
  • Whispered
  • Laughed
  • Joked
  • Sobbed
  • Responded
  • Replied

The list goes on. Again, I’m not asking you to remove the word “like” from your entire vocabulary. That would be, like, impossible. But if you do one great thing for your grammar and vocabulary this week, let it be this. Reinstate some of the words above when describing a conversation. You won’t be sorry!

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."



    Thank you!

    I’m at the older end of your audience, so this phenomenon happened after my formative years anyway. But I admit I do use “like” in this way sometimes, but only in speaking, in person, and only when the actual words spoken are not the main element. What I mean is, I might say “I was like [then act out with emphatic negative gestures, facial expression, and tone of voice] ‘nuh-uh'”.

    But to simply describe a verbal exchange, use the words we have for that purpose. There are quite a few, to fit different moods and purposes.

    And then I was like “Yay – thank you Career Girl Network!”.

    Denise DeLuca

    Thank you! I so LIKE!


    I am (like) so guilty of this! I recently was reviewing transcriptions from 30+ interviews I conducted, and I was cringing as I read how many times I said “like” and other ditzy sounding filler words. Not sure if it is because of my Southern California roots, but now that I am more aware of my habit, I have been proactively working on this. Thanks for the article!

    Mike Rubin

    The problem isn’t only one of terminology. It’s one of analytical skills or their lack.

    The use of “I was like” and “he was all” makes the recounting of any conversation a near verbatim one, as though the speaker is incapable of abstracting its essence. I recently overheard a long conversation being recounted by a young woman to another; the entire substance of the conversation was: “my boyfriend was pissed that I left the cellphone in the car because he needed to make a call.” If you need to repeat a conversation verbatim just to make a general point about it, it suggests to me that I might not be able to trust your thought processes.

    My other favorite indicator of reasoning skill challenges is the use of “I like” not so much as a substitute for “I said,” but, worse, for “I gesticulated.” Another overhead conversation: “I was like, all Uhhhhhhhh and stuff,” followed by the listener’s acknowledgment: “So was I!”

    Finally, even if you are someone who genuinely enjoys talking this way with your friends, I think it might be worth your while to tone this down at the office or in other settings in which you represent a business. I was on an elevator not so long ago with two well-dressed young women, each of whom was carrying a satchel with the name of one of the major accounting firms engraved on it. The first one said to the second: “So, I was like,’Geez, how do you expect me to bury half a million dollars in contingent liability on the lefthand side of a balance sheet?,’ and he was like, ‘I don’t know, you’re the accountant,’ and I was like, ‘yes, and that’s why I know it would violate the Generally Accepted Accounting Practices to do that,’ and he was like, ‘well, think of something, then,’ and ‘I was like, ‘that would violate the 1935 Act…..” And on and on and on. This obviously was a bright and talented woman, who had significant responsibility in dealing with her company’s clients. That she’d even talk this way to a colleague who worked alongside of her in a business setting resulted in my tuning out the substance of what she was saying and hearing only the “I was like'” and “he was all’s.”

    Rereading this before posting, I can see that I make myself look like someone who snoops other people’s conversations. However, each of these conversations was at a volume level that made them unavoidable by those in proximity. (And the volume at which young people exchange private or even intimate information is a whole other subject, too…..).

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