Avoid Writing Or Speaking These Words

Today I want to share with you some concrete examples of phrases people use in their daily language which betray a lack of confidence. By sharing these, it is my hope that you may benefit directly and watch your own choice of words when speaking or writing.

The word, ‘just’ when used to describe the kind of work you are looking for, can communicate your low opinion of both the job and by association, the people who perform it. “I’m just looking for a factory job”.  By including the word, ‘just’ in the sentence, it’s a self-put-down.  You might as well say, “I am not worthy of a meaningful job doing anything significant, I’m only capable of this job anybody could do”. Ouch! Remove the word, ‘just’ from the sentence and it becomes assertive immediately; “I’m looking for a factory job”.

‘Would like to’, is a phrase that I often see people use when writing a cover letter or perhaps in the opening few lines of an email. It’s often used in the sentence that goes something like, “I would like to apply for the position of…”  My question to people who use such a phrase is, “Are you applying or aren’t you?” to which they tell me, “Of course I am.” Well if you are in the very act of applying, then you no longer ‘would like to’, you are!

For example if you said, “I would like to visit Australia one day”, that’s an event that may happen one day in the future. It’s not something you would say as you boarded the plane to a fellow passenger. They’d say, “You do know this is the plane going to Australia don’t you?”, because they’d be confused by your choice of language.  So it’s proper then to change this opening to, “I am applying for the position of…” This becomes a factual opening; you’re applying for a job and identifying the position.

“I’m only” is much like the word, ‘just’. “I’m only an Accountant” reveals that low opinion you have, or belief the person you are speaking with has of those people who are Accountants. What’s wrong with being an Accountant? It’s as if you are revealing your inner value that the position you are describing is at the bottom of some commonly held job-ranking scale. If an Accountant happened to be listening nearby, don’t be surprised if they take offence and say, “I’m an Accountant. What’s wrong with Accountants?” I imagine you’d counter apologetically with something like, “Oh sorry I didn’t mean anything by it.” Ah but you’ve said it haven’t you? Drop, “I’m only” from your vocabulary.

Another common mistake I have come to see time and time again on cover letters is a failure of the writer to come right out and ask for an interview. Now isn’t the point of cover letter to introduce yourself, reference your resume and motivate the reader to extend an interview to you? So why dance around hinting at it, inferring it, implying it etc. instead of just stating with assertion, “I am requesting an interview”. It’s as easy as that and can be your opening line. “I am requesting an interview for the position of ______________. “

I am amazed at the number of people who counter this suggestion by saying, “Can I do that? I don’t want to sound pushy.” Pushy? It’s not pushy at all. It’s the thrust of your intent in an opening line which gets right to the point. The person receiving your resume and cover letter is busy and wants to know the purpose of this letter that’s landed on their desk. “Oh, you want an interview. Great, let me read on.”

One last language tip; replace the phrase, “Can I”, with the words, “May I”. I am often approached by clients when working in an Employment Resource Centre who wish to use a stapler or a pen for example. I understand they are being polite and asking for permission to use an item which is only good manners. When you ask, “May I?” you are correctly asking for permission. When you ask, “Can I?” you are asking for my assessment of your ability to actually use the stapler or pen. Presumably you have the required skills and know how to use the stapler, but maybe not. Are you asking for a demonstration first? I doubt it.

Now look, these might appear to be trifling, miniscule things that aren’t a big deal. They are however indicators of your both your self-esteem, your command of the language and by inference, your education level. In other words, the people listening to you or reading your words are going to form impressions of you – just as you yourself form opinions of others based on what you both hear and read. My intent by pointing out these few examples is to help you see how you may be perceived by others. You alone ultimately decide the choice of words you use and the impression you want others to have of you.

If you have no idea your choice of words is creating a poor first impression, it’s impossible to correct what you don’t know. So please take my suggestions as just that – suggestions. Do with them what you will. You’ll find more ideas to help you with your job search at https://myjobadvice.wordpress.com   and please share your comments freely.


2 thoughts on “Avoid Writing Or Speaking These Words

  1. I agree. It’s amazing how changing the words you use can convey a whole different meaning. I am working on eliminating the word “only”. I am getting there, but I have to be careful not to slip up. I have always asked for an interview in my cover letter at the end, but I never thought about asking at the beginning. That is a good idea.


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