Purge Your Vocabulary: Five Words That Should Disappear From Your Lexicon

By Joel Hilton
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Whether they use a word-of-the-day calendar or vocabulary software, many people today are trying to build their vocabulary. Building your vocabulary will not only improve your verbal and writing skills, but it can also open doors for employment. However, while many of us build our vocabulary, we need to remove a few words from our everyday conversations too. These words have been so overused that they've practically lost their meaning. It's time to purge your vocabulary of the worst offenders. Below are five words that we think should disappear from your lexicon.

Literally – This word is literally becoming one of the most overused words in the English language. These days, people use the word "literally" to emphasize a point or exaggerate strong feelings rather than to speak of literal events. People use this word even when they're obviously speaking figuratively – e.g. my head literally exploded! No, it didn't. Because this word is so overused, it literally needs to be retired – except to distinguish fact from hyperbole.

Synergy – Even though the word "synergy" can be correctly used in the fields of biology, toxicology and pharmacology, this word has been hijacked by the business world. Almost every company bio will refer to some form of synergy or another, such as "corporate synergy," "positive synergy" or "integrating aggregate cutting-edge synergies." Literally, "synergy" is a group of elements working together to create something greater than their sum. However, if you asked a panel of CEOs to define "synergy," 9 out of 10 wouldn't know how, and would eventually have to admit that they put it on their company's webpage because it sounds impressive. Not knowing the meaning of the words you use isn't impressive, though, so this word should be banned from every company's About Us page and corporate meeting where it has no business being.

Viral – The only time we should use the word "viral" is when we immediately follow it with the word "infection." The media loves to say that a video has "gone viral" after it gets a few thousand views, and "viral marketing" is a buzzword that pitchmen love to throw out to get corporate types excited. It's strange how we've contracted this small, infectious and potentially fatal organism as a positive marketing phenomenon. Unfortunately, we probably won't be able to inoculate "viral." We'll just have to wait until it works its way out of the system.

Dynamic – "Dynamic" is another corporate buzzword that companies love to use to describe themselves. When a company describes itself as "dynamic and exciting," this implies that the company is unstable, because "dynamic" means constant change. Describing yourself as "dynamic" on a résumé may look flashy, but it essentially only says that you know how to use a thesaurus.

Like – "Like" is a very versatile word. It can be used as a verb (e.g. she likes me), a preposition (e.g. she's like the wind) and a conjunction (e.g. it looks like she's coming over here). However, it is increasingly being used as an adverb (e.g. she, like, threw herself at me), a noun (e.g. I got a like on my changed relationship status) and an interjection (e.g. she's, like, um, like, the love of my life, like, for real). "Like" has become the all-purpose filler word when we have nothing else to say. This epidemic is no longer limited to valley girls; it has spread to almost every verbal conversation in America and, like, it needs to stop, okay.

Perhaps it is not in our power to rid the world completely of these overused words – in fact, it would literally be impossible. However, we can be the change we want to hear in the world and stop using them ourselves. Perhaps we could even make a synergistic effort to share educational articles like this one to help them go viral. By raising awareness, we could create a dynamic shift in the way we communicate with one other. And isn't improving the way we communicate, like, the most important thing we can do?

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