Are You Using This Negative Word?


You use a lot of words daily, but do you think about how they may be interpreted before you say them? “Um,” “er” and “like” can be degrading to your sentences. However, there is one simple word that can have negative connotations and should be avoid when possible.

So, what is the negative word? The word is “but.” Although this may seem like a simple conjunction, it can be complex in how it is received. What makes this word even more difficult is it’s almost impossible to avoid using it in a sentence. Look at the first sentence of this post for instance. The word “but” is normally used in sentences that signal notes of disagreement or confusion. Although we can’t always avoid using the word, try substituting it, when you can, with a word that more clearly gets your idea or point across.

Here are 3 examples of when you should avoid the “but” word:

  1. Disagreements

    “But” may seem like the easiest—and most logical—word to use when disagreeing with someone. It may sound as if you’re seeing both sides of the situation, however, it may come off as being tense and less flexible. Try replacing “but” with “and” to engage with a more collaborative response as opposed to keeping it one sided.

  2. Ranking

    When joining two ideas together with the word “but,” your order of them in the sentence may become uncertain as to which one is more important. Try simply removing the conjunction to direct your listeners toward the more important information. For example, rather than saying, “We saw a high engagement with new leads, but our profits declined.” Try, “Although our engagement with new leads was high, our profits declined.”

  3. Uncertainty

    We hear “but” used a lot when dealing with uncertainty or when someone is thinking out loud. Although it may not seem like it, this simple three-letter word can add greater confusion. And while it’s normal to be uncertain, it is better to choose a different word to tie your thoughts together to sound more confident.

Using “but” every now and then is okay. When you can avoid it, do. Your statements will sound much more polished and be less apt to be misinterpreted. Learning to speak as well as you think is an important asset. Attend one of our Leadership Presentation & Image Skills programs to learn more.