Words which change meaning and how they work

Looking back, I have fond memories of the “early days of the internet” (well, as we see them now, anyways) where I’d get home from school, hop onto the computer and chat using IRC (Internet Relay Chat), mostly with others I’d seen at school not an hour or two earlier that day. While at the time this seemed somewhat run of the mill, I got to thinking about how this kind of interaction influenced how I communicate online and via text in general.

Over the years, I’ve met several people who influenced the words I choose when communicating. Whether verbally or over text, words have a specific meaning and, to me, there is little room for interpretation when selecting ones words. As I communicated more and more over text, I realised how much we actually convey without realising, purely through our choice of words. Today I’d like to pinpoint several words, how I interpret them in communication and how removing them or adjusting them can improve and provide clarity to one’s communication.


This is the trigger word we all know and love. Breaking it down, this word’s meaning is pretty clear; everything before the word “but” is insignificant. For example, “I’m really sorry you feel that way, but I believe I’m correct”. What the speaker is really saying here is, “I believe I’m correct”. They’re not really sorry. A slight adjustment here could be, I’m really sorry you feel that way, Johnny. I feel I’m correct, here”.

How to remove “but”: Replace the word with the end of a sentence and the beginning of a new sentence.


I’ve noticed this word come up quite a lot, recently. I feel this word indicates stress, anxiety or tension of a time-sensitive nature. For example, when sitting on front of a hot plate of food without cutlery, one could ask “Johnny, please hand me some cutlery” or, “Johnny, could you just hand me some cutlery, please?”. Same request; different tone.

How to remove “just”: Just remove it. Your sentence doesn’t need it, in this context.


Okay, so this may seem like an odd one. The use of “and”, for me, is down to remembering to breath. “I went to the beach and it was fun and we played volleyball and swam in the sea” is a very long sentence. We often use “and” to separate two thoughts in the same sentence. If there are two thoughts, there is surely a more creative method of stating the two thoughts as separate sentences, perhaps combining them in another way.

Executive Summary

Overall, removing a few small words from one’s daily vocabulary can provide additional clarity to what one is saying, while also conveying the appropriate tone one wishes to share. Tone is extremely important, especially when communicating over text.

Keep it clean… no “just”s, “and”s or “but”s.


One response to “Words which change meaning and how they work”

  1. […] pride myself on being someone who is keenly aware of the underlying meaning of words and the ways in which we say them. Being this way is both a gift and a curse, yet it forces me to be very conscious of the words […]

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