Subtitle: Without sounding like a prick. There is a special art to choosing the perfect word for a situation, particularly in the workplace. You want your vocabulary to be impressive, but not so impressive it garners scoffs, professional but not stiff. It has to sound natural in context, like you鈥檝e used it before. You want people to understand what it means, but maybe Google it 鈥渏ust to make sure.鈥 Most importantly, it has to make sense, connotation very much included. If you鈥檙e looking to stretch your workplace vocabulary without sounding like a pretentious asshole, here are some suggestions.


1. Caustic /藞k么stik/ adjective: sarcastic in a scathing and bitter way. Synonyms: derisive, acerbic, abrasive

Example: I didn鈥檛 appreciate the caustic tone of that email.

Note: Yes, it also means 鈥渁ble to burn or corrode organic tissue by chemical action鈥 or 鈥渇ormed by the intersection of reflected or refracted parallel rays from a curved surface,鈥 but this is less likely to be applicable in the workplace. Unless of course you are a chemist or physicist, in which case a liberal arts major who works in book publishing is unlikely to be of much assistance anyway.

2. Idiosyncrasy /id膿蓹藞siNGkr蓹s膿/ noun: a distinctive or peculiar feature or characteristic of an individual, place or thing. Synonyms: peculiarity, oddity, eccentricity

Example: Ah, just another charming idiosyncrasy of our printers I see. [sarcasm]

3. Paradoxical /par-uh-DOK-si-kuhl/ adjective: having the nature of a paradox; self-contradictory. Synonyms: contradictory, incongruous, anomalous

Example: I know that this idea sounds paradoxical, but I believe it鈥檚 our most effective solution.

4. Beleaguer /bi藞l膿伞蓹r/ verb: to cause constant or repeated trouble for a person, business, etc. Synonyms: harass, pester, badger, vex

Example: The beleaguered school system can鈥檛 take much more of this.

5. Exacerbate /i伞藞zas蓹r藢b膩t/ verb: make (a problem, bad situation, or negative feeling) worse. Synonyms: inflame, aggravate

Example: I understand that you鈥檙e trying to help, but what you鈥檙e doing is only exacerbating the situation.

6. Didactic /d墨藞daktik/ adjective: in the manner of a teacher, particularly so as to treat someone in a patronizing way. Synonyms: patronizing, pedantic

Example: He would be a good choice for the conferences if his speeches weren鈥檛 so didactic.

7. Innocuous /i藞n盲kyo蜑o蓹s/ adjective: not harmful or offensive. Synonyms: harmless, innocent

Example: There鈥檚 no need to be defensive 鈥 it was an innocuous question.

8. Parsimonious /p盲rs蓹藞m艒n膿蓹s/ adjective: unwilling to spend money or use resources. Synonyms: stingy, frugal, cheap

Example: In this campaign, there is no room to be parsimonious.

9. Bloviate /bl艒v膿藢膩t/ verb: talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way. Synonyms: spiel

Example: It鈥檚 tough to watch them bloviate about sweeping change when our internal processes are still such a mess.

10. Aplomb /蓹藞pl蓹m/ noun: self-confidence or assurance, especially when in a demanding situation. Synonyms: poise, composure

Example: It was a tense meeting, but you carried the presentation with aplomb.

Will you incorporate these into your day-to-day office chat? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

This post was originally published on Levo League by Kelsey Manning.