Why You Need to Stop Using These Words and Phrases (2022)


Language has long been used to dehumanize or marginalize people with disabilities. Ableist language shows up in different ways: as metaphors, jokes, or euphemisms.

  • While ableism exists beyond the words we use, in structures and policies, our vocabularies can help us how we think and behave with people around us.
  • We spoke to four disability rights activists to know why our words matter, how they influence our biases, thoughts, and behaviors and what we can do to check them.

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Try this thought experiment: You’re sitting at your desk, when your friend texts you an article about a topic you’re passionate about. You read it and ask her what she thinks. To your surprise, her opinion is the complete opposite of your own. This obviously upsets you. Later that evening, as you explain what happened to your partner, how do you describe your friend’s point of view?

If you said it was “stupid,” “insane,” “crazy,” “lame,” or “dumb,” you have (unknowingly or not) participated in spreading ableist language.

You may be surprised to learn that your response was a form of discrimination. People use ableist words and phrases everyday without realizing the harm they do.

(Video) STOP USING THIS VOCABULARY 🚫 Use these words & phrases instead...

Ableismis defined as discrimination or social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. It can manifest as an attitude, stereotype, or an outright offensive comment or behavior. When it comes to language, ableism often shows up as metaphors (“My boyfriend is emotionally crippled.”), jokes (“That comedian was hysterical!”), and euphemisms (“He is differently abled.”) in conversation.

As a journalist with a background in media studies, I spend a lot of time thinking about language and the words we choose to express ourselves. Our words, and the reasons why we choose them, reflect the times we live in. Just like some historically racist, sexist, and derogatory termshave been retired, so have a handful of ableist slurs that were used to dehumanize, stigmatize, and institutionalize people in the past. At the same time, too many people continue to casually spew ableist language to ridicule, criticize, or dismiss others.

My intent is not to shame anyone, it is to help more people understand how to identify and stop using words and phrases that reinforce ableism. I reached out to several disability rights advocates for their insights.

Here’s what I learned.

Ableism is bigger than language.

Language is a tool we use to make sense of our feelings and environment. When we verbally describe the things, experiences, and people around us we are also assigning value to them and that value impacts how we interact with each other.

Ableist language largely influences us in three ways:

1) It reveals our unconscious biases.

Lydia X.Z. Brown, a disability justice advocate, told me that our attitudes towards disability show up in the language we use.

“If we believe people with mental illness should not be in our workplace, life, family, or neighborhood, then, it’s easier to rationalize using ableist words,” Brown said. “You might think: ‘Only crazy people do that. I don’t do that, so it’s okay for me to say.’ But when people say these things, they send a signal to people with psychosocial disabilities that we are not welcome.”

Of course, Brown noted, that language is just one way ableism shows up. “By removing ableism from your vocabulary, you don’t remove ableism from your surroundings.”

Ableism can be blatant, especially in work or school environments. It could be the lack of accessible infrastructures, or something more insidious, like performance evaluations based on what are traditionally considered “productive” or “appropriate” behaviors.

Shain Neumeier, a lawyer and activist, added, “Unfortunately, people may not realize that doodling during a meeting [or class] may be your way of paying attention, especially if you’re someone with an invisible disability. They might just think it’s an abnormal behavior for that space.”

2) It makes us internalize harmful biases about disability.

When you treat a disability as a joke, metaphor, or euphemism, you are causing harm in a couple of ways. First, you are spreading the idea that it’s acceptable to dehumanize and stigmatize someone with a disability. Depending on your circle or friend group, you could even be enabling others to do the same.

Second, a disabled person may end up internalizing those tropes themselves.

“The first time someone makes fun of you or people like you (even if it’s not directed at you), it’s a little drop in the bucket. It’s like a poke,” Neumeier said. “But, when you are put down 100 times, over and over again, you start feeling disrespected, and it becomes hard to be around the perpetrators. Specifically in the work environment, if there is an imbalanced power dynamic, and the perpetrator is your boss, it can be very difficult.”

(Video) STOP Using These 5 Words and Phrases NOW! 🗣

Neumeier also pointed out that writing off a slur or universally unacceptable expression — like the r-word or the m-word — may be easier for a disabled person than constantly confronting microaggressions. If the person facing discrimination doesn’t have a support system, they may start to believe something is wrong with them, and that’s dangerous.

3) It stigmatizes already marginalized people.

Allilsa Fernandez, a mental health and disability activist, told me that using words that are ableist can distract attention from the point you’re trying to make and normalize the idea that disabilities equate to insults.

Fernandez explained, “When you say Trump is such a ‘psycho’ or ‘weirdo’ for his stance on immigration, you end up focusing on those specific words, without addressing the real issue: what it is that you don’t like about the immigration policy.”

If you do want to critique the administration’s policy, or anything for that matter, Fernandez advises that you talk about the reasons you agree or disagree with it. “When you attack a person’s physical and mental abilities in place of actually expressing an opinion or idea, you further stigmatize people with disabilities,” said Fernandez.

Make a conscious effort to improve your vocabulary.

Using ableist language doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a person. But, if you have the privilege to change your vocabulary for the better, then why not try?

I asked my interviewees for a few beginner tips. This was their advice.

1) Acknowledge the disability around you.

More than one billion people worldwide, around 15% of the population, have some type of disability. People with disabilities make up a quarter of the U.S. population.

Professor Beth Haller teaches disability and media studies at Towson University. She told me the more conscious we become of the disability around us, the less we are likely to stigmatize it as something to be fixedand look at it as something that is.

“Usually, people exist on two ends: People either feel bad for you if you are disabled or self-aggrandize by feeling ‘lucky’ for the life they live (without the disability),” she explained. “Both of those things are unhelpful.”

Haller said that, as a world, we need to get out of the mindset that a disabled person has “less than the rest of us.” That’s where the discrimination begins.

Pro-tip: Don’t try to fix disability; instead fix the oppression.

2) Learn, learn, learn.

“Education, that’s where you start,” Fernandez says. “It’s not that people don’t stop and think about the impact their words have on others, it’s just that language is very deeply ingrained. It reflects our families, friends, cultures, and identity.” According to Fernandez, becoming aware of our own biases — many of which we’ve picked up from the people we’ve met, the experiences we’ve had, and the media we’ve consumed throughout our lives — is the first step to educating ourselves.

Another way to become more aware of our own biases is to listen more than we talk. Neumeier told me to think of listening as a means of building stronger relationships — at work or beyond. “Look at every interaction you have as a way to bond with others, rather than just a clash of ideas. Otherwise, we are all going to feel isolated.”

Finally, Brown added that it’s important for everyone to use the resources put out by disabled people. “Look for articles, books, videos, podcasts, and other work by disabled writers and activists. Use these tools to learn about the way discrimination or ableism works.” Doing so will help you recognize when it’s happening in real life — whether it’s coming from you, or someone else.

(Video) Stop saying these words! Use these phrases to advance your everyday vocabulary

Pro-tip: Educate yourself, and don’t rely on others to teach you.

3) Don’t make assumptions about someone’s identity.

Linguistic rules are evolving. In the late 1980s and early ’90, during the AIDS epidemic, organizations began to move away from words like “handicapped” and embrace what is referred to as people-first language, according to Haller. Instead of defining people by their disability, the movement sought to focus on the fact that people with disabilities are first and foremost, just people. An example of this would be saying “a person with a disability” instead of “a disabled person.”

This was the linguistic rule for some time. Then, in the early ’90s,other disability communities, like the National Federation of the Blind and the d/Deaf community, mobilized for an identity-first rule so disability could be recognized as an identity and not just a medical category. For instance, some individuals may prefer ‘Deaf’ (capitalized) instead of “people who are deaf” or “people with loss of hearing.”

The history behind our identities and how we name them is complex. “Today, the best strategy is just to ask people how they want to be addressed,” Haller said.

Everyone I interviewed echoed this sentiment: clarifying questions about identity show respect.

Pro-tip: Golden rule is: When you’re unsure of someone’s identity, just ask.

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4) When you make a mistake, genuinely apologize.

“When someone tells you that something is disrespectful, you don’t have to understand why they are hurt. Just that they are,” said Brown. “I love cooking for my friends. But, if someone says they didn’t like a dish I made for them, then I’m not going to force them to eat it.I don’t have to understand or argue or even agree with them. But if I have a choice, why would I make my friend a dish they don’t like?”

Brown cautions to be aware of your reaction if someone calls you out. Getting defensive may be a natural response, but the last thing you want to do is make someone else’s pain about you, even if you had good intentions. Instead, genuinely check yourself, say you’re sorry and do better in the future.

Pro tip: This isn’t about your opinions; it’s about how the other person feels.

My big takeaway from these conversations is that the pain and isolation that accompany discrimination and prejudice run much deeper than the ableist words many of us were taught as kids. Those words hurt people and that hurt is valid.

The upside is that history shows us that language and communications evolve. This means we have a lot of room to create vocabularies that are more empowering and inclusive — ones that address historical injustices and make everybody feel welcome.

Language isn’t meant to alienate us; it’s meant to help us understand one another.

Editor’s Note: If you want to know more about how you can keep your ableist words, thoughts, and actions in check, you can look up National Center on Disability and Journalism, GLAAD Media Reference Guide, Disability Language Guide, and this blog by Lydia X.Z.Brown.

(Video) STOP Using Simple WORDS! Use These PHRASES Instead (Speak Like An American!)


How do you stop using words? ›

With these three steps you can stop using words people don't want to hear and increase the impact your words have on others.
You Probably Need More Friends—Here's How To Make Them
  1. Think before you speak. ...
  2. Set an intention for words to omit or include. ...
  3. Commit to speaking more consciously.
16 Feb 2021

How do you teach yourself to stop using filler words? ›

Next, once you've become cognizant of your filler words as they try to escape your lips, begin forcing yourself to be silent. To practice, set up a video to record, and talk about what you did from the beginning to the end of the day. Practice using pauses instead of filler words as you recall the events.

Why should we remove filler words from our conversation? ›

While typically acceptable in normal conversations, filler words can be detrimental to public speaking. Using a filler word may make it sound like you have forgotten what you're about to say next. They break your audience's attention from your message.

What words and phrases must be avoided? ›

20+ Words to Avoid Writing in Your Essay
  • 1) Contractions. ...
  • 2) Idioms. ...
  • 3-5) “So on,” “etc,” “and so forth“ ...
  • 6) Clichés. ...
  • 7-11) “Thing,” “stuff,” “good,” “bad,” “big“ ...
  • 12) Slang, jargon, teen speak. ...
  • 13) Rhetorical questions. ...
  • 14-17) “In terms of,” “needless to say,” “in conclusion,” “it goes without saying“
13 Mar 2018

How do you stop using like in sentences? ›

In place of "like," try, “for example,” “say,” “nearly,” or “about.” Eventually, you may want to correct for additional words altogether, but for now, use these words as a crutch to stop using “like.”

How do you stop saying you know when speaking? ›

  1. 6 ways to stop saying 'uh,' 'you know' and other word fillers.
  2. Get the help of an "uh" counter. ...
  3. Record yourself. ...
  4. Do your homework. ...
  5. Pause, think, answer. ...
  6. Slow down. ...
  7. Tell great stories.

How can we avoid filter words while speaking? ›

How to Avoid Filler Words - YouTube

Why do you think it is important to avoid having ums and OMS in your speech? ›

Too many um's and uh's can irritate your listeners because you're essentially thinking out loud, and people want to do less thinking when listening to someone and instead be carried along by your words.

How do you stop verbal pauses? ›

The way to eliminate verbal pauses in your communication is two-fold: awareness and practice. First, start becoming aware of verbal pauses by listening for them in others' spoken communication. If you watch the news or any non-scripted talk show, listen for verbal pauses in the speakers.

Why do people use filler words in speech? ›

um, uh, oh, er, ah

These are the basic filler words—or filler sounds—that people use when speaking. Aside from filling in time while we prepare our next words, the only other purpose they serve is to show reluctance or hesitation.

What do you mean by filler words? ›

In general, the term filler words refers to short words or phrases that are used in speech or writing for reasons beyond what the words themselves mean, such as to create a pause or to indicate someone isn't finished speaking.

Why do people use filler words? ›

Perhaps the most obvious effect, fillers show that a speaker is still actively speaking – that they still want the airtime. This enhances the flow of communication in a conversation because it avoids interruptions and confusion over when someone should respond.

What word or phrase should you avoid in a thesis statement? ›

Avoids vague words such as "good," "interesting," "a serious problem," "in many ways," etc. NOTE: A thesis statement should not be a well-known fact (Ex. Bats are nocturnal mammals.). *A Helpful Tip?

How do you stop using this essay? ›

(1) You can add a noun (an “essential word” in this case) after the word “this” or “these”. Essential words sum up or capture the main idea from the previous sentence.

Why should you avoid using long high sounding or complex words? ›

Readers do not appreciate words that are hard to understand

For your audiences to understand your content, you need to use simple words so that the reader gets to know your point of view and he/she may be interested in reading your content in future too.

How do I stop saying like and type of? ›

How to Stop Saying "Um", "Like", and "You Know" - YouTube

How do you use the word like? ›

One of the most common ways that you'll hear the word “like” is as a verb – “to like”. This is a verb used to express the fact that you enjoy something, and it can be used just like many other verbs in English. For example: “I like walking to work, but she liked to drive instead.”

Why do people keep saying you know when talking? ›

People use it to show that they have a common understanding. Sometimes people use an acknowledgment marker because they want to know if you agree with them. Other times, they use it as a way to fill spaces in a conversation or discussion. Saying "you know" gives the speaker time to think of what to say next.

Why do people keep saying like? ›

Recent studies have suggested that the word might also have a social function, acting as a cue to seem informal and friendly, another reason why it's so prevalent among young girls. Over the years, the way we use like has been used as a prime example of how younger generations are destroying the English language.

Why do people say you know so much? ›

He said tag words such as "you know," "I mean," and "right" are used to seek confirmation in the listener, or convince them. "Truthful people convey information and seek confirmation from listeners," he wrote.

How important are gestures to speech delivery? ›

Gestures make you a better speaker

The movement draws attention to what you're saying and draws attention to the important parts of your speech. Hand gestures often help to emphasize certain points of speech and strengthen the speaker's message as well.

What are some common speech patterns words or phrases that reduce the effectiveness of oral communication? ›

7 Speaking Mistakes Professionals Make
  • Stuttered or repeated words and fillers. ...
  • Speaking too quickly. ...
  • Speaking too quietly. ...
  • Gravelly voice or vocal fry. ...
  • Trailing off at the end of phrases. ...
  • Uptalk, or phrasing statements as questions. ...
  • Speaking in a monotone voice.
2 Jan 2014

What are some commonly used speech patterns words or phrases that reduce effectiveness of oral communication? ›

Answer and Explanation: Some commonly used speech patterns, words, or phrases that reduce oral communication effectiveness include evading the main thrust of the message, adding unnecessary words, and using unnecessarily offensive terms.

What is the best way to ensure that your pitch matches the meaning of your words? ›

What is the best way to ensure that your pitch matches the meaning of your words? Record and listen to yourself as you practice your speech.

Why do I keep pausing when I talk? ›

When you have a fluency disorder it means that you have trouble speaking in a fluid, or flowing, way. You may say the whole word or parts of the word more than once, or pause awkwardly between words. This is known as stuttering. You may speak fast and jam words together, or say "uh" often.

What are pauses in speech called? ›

A speech disfluency, also spelled speech dysfluency, is any of various breaks, irregularities, or non-lexical vocables which occur within the flow of otherwise fluent speech.

Why do people say right after they make a statement? ›

It's a way of checking in that we're all on the same page and speaking about the same thing (I suspect that's what was going on with your diagram comment, right?). It can be used to soften a declarative statement. And we'll also use it to amplify that we're in agreement – for example, when we say “I know, right?”

Is yeah a filler word? ›

Yeah. yeah is a multi-use filler word.

Can I start a sentence with basically? ›

To start a sentence with "basically" is to announce a noble intellectual modesty, to apologise, in an understated and polite manner, for the lack of nuance in what is to come. If you indicate this by beginning a sentence "Essentially …" or "Effectively … ", no one will complain.

What is a filler phrase in verbal communication? ›

"A filler word is an apparently meaningless word, phrase, or sound that marks a pause or hesitation in speech. Also known as a pause filler or hesitation form. Some of the common filler words in English are um, uh, er, ah, like, okay, right, and you know.

How do you use you know in a sentence? ›

1 —used when one is trying to help someone remember something They live on the other side of town. You know—near the golf course. He was in our history class—you know—the tall blond guy in the front row. 2 —used for emphasis You know, we really have to go.

Does everyone use filler words? ›

First of all, everyone uses filler words in their native language. Whether good or bad, it is a natural part of communication. Some people use 'uh' and 'um' too much, and it can certainly be annoying. Because of this, there are videos encouraging people to stop using filler words.

What words should not be used in an argumentative essay? ›

The following guidelines should help you maintain a formal writing voice in your essays.
  • Do not use first-person pronouns ("I," "me," "my," "we," "us," etc.). ...
  • Avoid addressing readers as "you." ...
  • Avoid the use of contractions. ...
  • Avoid colloquialism and slang expressions. ...
  • Avoid nonstandard diction.

What words should not be used in academic writing? ›

Cheat sheet
CategoryCommon Examples
Avoid …vague expressionsa lot, a couple of, thing, stuff
exaggerationsalways/never, definitely, every/none, best/greatest
opinionated or subjective expressionsnaturally/obviously, of course, should
clichésat the end of the day, a happy medium
6 more rows
9 Jun 2020

Why should you not be used in most academic writing? ›

Using second-person pronouns such as 'you' or 'your' to address the reader is inappropriate and can make an essay read like an informal speech rather than a piece of academic writing.

Do I need to use the word that? ›

We use that to introduce defining relative clauses. We can use that instead of who, whom or which to refer to people, animals and things. That is more informal than who or which: She picked up the hairbrush that she had left on the bed.

How do you use and in a sentence? ›

We use and to connect two words, phrases, clauses or prefixes together:
  1. Televisions and computers are dominating our daily life. ( ...
  2. I have to shower and change. ( ...
  3. The photos are black and white. ( ...
  4. My best friend and my father's father both come from Wales. ( ...
  5. She got to the door and put the key in the latch. (

What should you always avoid in formal writing? ›

You should try to avoid expressions that are too informal, unsophisticated, vague, exaggerated, or subjective, as well as those that are generally unnecessary or incorrect.

Why you shouldn't use big words? ›

When you're going out of your way to use big words and long sentence structures, your writing is going to feel overworked. And when it feels heavy and forced like that, it usually means it's not going to be fun to read. Writing in shorter sentences and using common words makes your work seem effortless.

Why should there be careful selection of words and phrases in written communication? ›

Incorrect word choice leads to the misunderstanding among the audience. It sometimes makes a situation awkward and unclear. Sometimes, an incorrect word makes no sense. Correct word choice increases the impact on one's mind.

Why is it important to keep your writing short and easy to understand? ›

Plain language conveys the message in less time and more people are able to understand the message. Documents containing simple words will not be misunderstood and you won't have to explain to everyone. Hence, several studies have shown that simple writing saves time, money and personal resources.

What do you mean by stop words? ›

In computer search engines, a stop word is a commonly used word (such as "the") that a search engine has been programmed to ignore, both when indexing entries for searching and when retrieving them as the result of a search query.

How do you cut 1000 words in an essay? ›

The following are some tips for cutting back.
  1. Start with the big picture. Look for entire sections first, then paragraphs, sentences, and words. ...
  2. Look for long examples. ...
  3. Summarize, summarize, summarize. ...
  4. Cut out repetition. ...
  5. Chop ancillary topics. ...
  6. Look for unnecessary words (e.g. that or very). ...
  7. Look for colloquial speech.
22 Sept 2011

Why do we need stop words? ›

Stop words are available in abundance in any human language. By removing these words, we remove the low-level information from our text in order to give more focus to the important information.

What are stop words in search? ›

Stop words are commonly used words such as articles, pronouns and prepositions. Stop words are not added to the search dictionary, but they are counted as words for proximity (a distance between words) searching purposes. The primary reason for not indexing stop words is to allow for the most precise Result List.

Which of the following is not the stop words? ›

What words are not stop words? Generally speaking, most stop words are function (filler) words, which are words with little or no meaning that help form a sentence. Content words like adjectives, nouns, and verbs are often not considered stop words. However, a programmer may choose to add common words.

How do I get word to not count my words? ›

At the bottom, you will see a box next to 'Include text boxes, footnotes, and endnotes. ' If it is checked, uncheck it. Above it, you will see statistics with numbers next to them: pages, words, characters (no spaces), characters (spaces), paragraphs, lines.

What happens if you go over the word limit on college essay? ›

If you go substantially past the word limit, you risk having your essay cut off by an online application form or having the admissions officer just not finish it. And if you're too far under the word limit, you may not be elaborating enough.

How do you cut down a character in a personal statement? ›

7 Tips for Cutting Words from Your Personal Statement
  1. Eliminate adverbs. ...
  2. Make sure you need every “very” ...
  3. Get rid of the word “actually” ...
  4. Double-check how you use “that” and “which” ...
  5. Make better use of apostrophes. ...
  6. Try to hyphenate words whenever possible. ...
  7. Don't narrate your own writing.
12 Dec 2017

How do you count words in a sentence? ›

Counting Words in Sentences using Counters - YouTube

How many words are in a sentence? ›

There's no perfect length, however, a well-written sentence should have 15-20 words on average.

How many words is five sentences? ›

How long is a 5 sentence paragraph? If a sentence has 17 words (the average is 15 to 20 words) then a 5 sentence paragraph would be 85 words long.

What is the purpose of Bag of Words write down the steps to implement bag of words algorithm? ›

A bag-of-words model, or BoW for short, is a way of extracting features from text for use in modeling, such as with machine learning algorithms. The approach is very simple and flexible, and can be used in a myriad of ways for extracting features from documents.

What is a bag of words Mcq? ›

Bag of Words is a Natural Language Processing model which helps in extracting features out of the text which can be helpful in machine learning algorithms. In bag of words, we get the occurrences of each word and construct the vocabulary for the corpus.


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