What Words Do You Avoid?

By: Jen Shoop

Image via.

In 2023, I made a conscious effort to replace “but” with “and.” This was a micro-manifestation of a philosophy I’ve been cultivating in recent years: multiple things can be true at once. In a year I dedicated to “flow,” the substitution felt like a small linguistic way to make space for multiplicities in my every day life, and a meaningful step towards accepting that “not everything resolves to a fine point.”

I was astonished by how frequently I paused to correct myself, and how profound the small shift often felt. “But” denigrates, interrupts, and dismisses an often very valid first clause, e.g., “I feel frustrated by xyz, but it’s just the way things are.” Why not “I feel frustrated by xyz AND I understand that it’s the way things are”? In our true and feral inner worlds, we feel lots of things — often conflicting ones — at once. Why not embrace language in better parity with my authentic emotional life?

Back in my product design days, we often talked about fostering a “yes, and” mentality versus a “no, but” one. We borrowed the framework from improvisational comedy, in which comedians must build on what’s been said before such that the scene can continue to unfold and evolve, often by literally saying, “yes, and…!” When we’d brainstorm together as a product team, we’d censor any “no, buts” from the conversation in order to foster a more generative, playful, collaborative environment — and the result was often stunning.

Something small but parallel often took shape when I’d replace “but” with “and” in everyday conversation. It almost felt like I was granting myself micro-permissions. Whenever I’d swap “and” for “but,” it was like saying: “Yes, you can feel that way,” or “no, you don’t need to reform or revise your first reaction.” The shift invited true ampersand thinking: a language of abundance, and “both-ness.”

Try it on tomorrow and see what you think.

What other words have you trained yourself to avoid? Why?


+Another word I avoid: “just.”

+A word (and piece of furniture) that I love.

+On dedicating my academic life to English — another look at stretching myself to accommodate multiplicities.

+On changing lanes in life.

If you want more Magpie, you can subscribe to my Magpie Email Digest for a weekly roundup of top essays, musings, conversations, and finds!

Shopping Break.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links below, I may receive compensation.

+Into the cropped length of this performance tee. On my body, I think it’s more flattering to hit right at natural waist vs at hip. I have been wearing this short-sleeved performance tee from Sweaty Betty a lot while hitting the indoor bike recently (on sale for $40!), so thinking having a LS version for runs would be nice.

+NB 9060s were just restocked in ultra-coveted gray. These are SO popular among the fashion-y community. Can I pull them off?!

+CUTE winter-to-spring tote. I feel like there’s going to be a run on Proenza Schouler thanks to Pam Anderson’s trending/viral make-up-free campaign for them.

+Some really cute finds from Maje at Outnet — love this lace collar dress and this gingham one.

+Turtlenecks in great colors at a great price.

+For your car-obsessed toddler.

+For my corporate Magpies: this blazer. For all of us: this leather variation. (DROOL.)

+A great bedside table option. Always love a pull-out tray! Reminiscent of this S&L ($1000 more expensive!), but without the storage.

+On my beauty wishlist at the moment: this concealer brush (people rave about it, and I don’t feel like neither my beauty blender or go-to Merit brush do a great job of reaching the inner corner of my eye — I always have to go back over with my finger in that area) and this eyelash curler.

+Just ordered this tooth whitening pen. Seems like such a convenient applicator!

+I keep coming back to this gorgeous dress. We are planning to travel to Italy later this year and it feels…perfect.

+Fun statement sunny options: these from Krewe; these from Loewe.

+This coveted Toteme coat is on sale!

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

14 thoughts on “What Words Do You Avoid?

  1. Late to the game here, but “these ones” is a wording pet peeve of mine. Once someone pointed it out to me, I started hearing it everywhere (I’m almost sorry to share it!). Every time I hear or see it, I want to shout “just say these!”

    1. UGH, their products are always spendy but so good. I happily splurge on the floss, and now we use their toothbrushes too…


  2. Not a word so much, but the reply ‘of course’ versus ‘you are welcome’. I’m not certain why this presents such a pet peeve. Think it may be from associating with an individual who used it often in a way that felt less genuine and almost condescending. I have such an aversion to the expression and avoid using it as part of my vocabulary.

    1. 100% — Landon read this comment out loud to me and said how much he agreed. We are also really conscious of saying “thank you” instead of “no problem” when someone apologizes. Really important to do in front of our kids, too — so meaningful to accept the apology with earnestness and gratitude versus brush it off / act like it doesn’t matter.


  3. ‘”THAT” and “JUST”. I am conscious when I use these words. I tend to overuse them and often a substitute will better refine the meaning I am after.
    While we’re on the subject of words, a big thank you for expanding my vocabulary over the years. I find myself frequently looking up a word you’ve used after reading your posts. Then I will try to use the word in conversation or in my writing to solidify it in my brain. It’s fun and it makes a difference!

    1. Aw, thank you so much! I do the same thing when I find a new word I love!

      “That” and “just” — totally agree!


    1. Same! I’m trying to replace “should” with “might.” (I SHOULD fold the laundry vs. I MIGHT fold the laundry…) “Might” feels more flexible and and short-circuits my internal voices of pressure and judgement surrounding any given decision.

      1. Love this replacement, and the notion of “short-circuiting my internal voices of pressure and judgment.” Amen! xx

Previous Article

Next Article