I think I might hate the word "actual."

I have a co-worker who starts many, many sentences with one or the other of two phrases: “To tell you the truth,” or “To be completely honest with you.”

Now… any repetition grates on me (long story) but inanities like these really get to me. I fully expect that my co-worker will be honest with me, so his use of these “filler” phrases gets my goat from two angles; needless statements plus repetition.

As I believe that anything that makes me angry is based more on me than on the thing that seems to be “causing” the anger, I took some time to think through my response to his verbal ticks. For one thing, if a person is lying, it won’t matter if they say “to tell you the truth,” since they’re just as likely to lie after saying that as they would be without the lead-in phrase. So the phrase is useless. Secondly, I realized that I hated hearing those useless phrases because I suspect that I also use such mechanisms in my own speech! Indeed, I have discovered that the word “actual” litters my conversation. I found this out after listening to another co-worker who used the word “actual” several times in almost every sentence he spoke during a presentation.

Having been sensitized to it, I started hearing it in my own sentences. Like “to be completely honest with you,” it is both meaningless and a space filler. In almost any sentence, the word “actual” can be dropped without changing the meaning of the sentence. I find it difficult to locate exceptions, that is… sentences which require the word.

Actually, I am finding it very difficult to remove the actual word “actual” from my actual, everyday actual usage.


Author: Jorah Lavin

I grew up in New England, moved to the Carolinas in '98 to start working at what was then a large regional bank and is now a really big nationwide bank. I work doing intranet content management and intranet site management. After work, I practice Aikido, knit, ride my motorcycle, read, watch movies & eat. I've been studying Aikido since 2014, and I ride a Yamaha V-Star 1300. I am pretty sure that I want to hike the Appalachian Trail someday.

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