Stop Saying ‘Actually’ To Avoid Making People Feel Stupid

Stop Saying ‘Actually’ To Avoid Making People Feel Stupid
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There are heaps of words worth removing from your writing, but one that many of us say too often out loud is “actually”. As Buffer employee Carolyn Kopprasch points out, saying “actually” tends to make people feel stupid.

“Actually” is one of those words we tend to hedge into a phrase that mitigates the sentence as a whole. Kopprasch explains:

It almost doesn’t matter how good the news is; if it comes after “actually,” I feel like I was somehow wrong about something.

Consider these two sentences:

Actually, you can do this under “Settings.”

Sure thing, you can do this under “Settings!” 🙂

…Bottom line is, if customers takes time out of their lives to ask us a question, thus teaching us about areas of confusion in our app, we’d love if they never have any occasion to feel stupid, or wrong, or corrected.

It’s the same with backhanded compliments. “Actually” is just one of those words that changes the meaning of a sentence in subtle, usually condescending ways.

Actually [Carolyn Kopprasch via 99u]


  • Actually, it’s almost as annoying as the overuse of the work ‘like’. You know, like, totally.

  • But making people feel stupid is an important feedback signal that helps stupid people to understand that they are stupid.

  • If you use “actually” to correct someone else, of course they’re going to feel stupid. Actually, they’re probably used to it.
    I tend to use it more often to correct something I’ve previously said.

  • Actually it can be quite annoying, but is it as bad as basically . It seems that people start every sentence with the word ‘ basically ‘ and usually end with basically as well. Basically.

  • Actually I use that to actually make people feel stupid, the more stupid people that realise they are stupid the more likely I dont have to rattle my brain on how uncommon common sense actually is.

  • What if they are stupid though, can we use it then?

    Sometimes you want the person to know that what they have said or done is stupid, works really well with customers

  • Funny how everyone here is just commenting on how THEY use the word on other people…

    Personally, I find rephrasing criticism as a question much more preferable. I’m trying to help someone here, not just point out my superiority.

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