8 Ways to Sound Smarter Than You Really Are

Fake it till you make it

Listen, we’ve all been there: You’re at some sort of social gathering talking to someone who just oozes intelligence and you want nothing more than to get on their level, brains-wise. While we can’t provide you with a crash course in quantum mechanics, we can give you eight tips for sounding smarter with minimal effort.

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1. Listen
It sounds simple, but listening is a major key to appearing intelligent. Don’t feel the need to comment on every single thing people say; chime in on topics you’re knowledgeable about and ask thoughtful questions about ones you’re not. Chances are the person you’re talking to will be more than happy to answer, never realizing you’re out of the loop.

2. Stand tall (but not too tall)
What you’re saying is important, but your body language also speaks volumes to your credibility. If you’re slumping, you’re communicating a lack of confidence not only in yourself but also in what you’re saying. On the other end of the spectrum, standing rigidly straight makes you seem nervous and uncomfortable. Shoot for something in the middle.


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3. Cut back on crutch words
Certain words and vocal tendencies are like tics: They’re hard to get rid of and sometimes we do them without even noticing. Words such as “like” and “um” make you sound unsure of yourself--as do things like uptalk, that inflection where you end your sentence in a higher tone like you’re asking a question?

4. Take your time
Pauses in conversations aren’t a bad thing, and we advise you to get comfortable with a little bit of silence. That way you won’t fill the void with meaningless chatter and a whole lot of “likes” and “umms.” Natural pauses in conversation also allow you to gather your thoughts before speaking, which is always helpful when you’re trying to make a good impression.


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Type A Films

5. Read more
Duh, right? But seriously, reading is arguably the most effective way to sound smarter. We’re not saying you have to tackle the unabridged works of Tolstoy, but try to read one long-form article every week: They’re usually rather in-depth, so you’ll come away with a good grasp on an interesting topic. You could also subscribe to an email newsletter that sends you a daily list of important stories summarized in just a few lines. (We’re partial to our own monthly long-form roundup for the former and Need 2 Know and The Broadsheet for the latter.)


pile of old books

6. Take control
You’re at a dinner party, and the woman you’re talking to brings up her work in, ack, nuclear astrophysics, we think? Instead of trying to fake your way through a conversation, try to subtly switch gears to something you’re more comfortable with. (“Nuclear astrophysics? Cool, that’s what my freshman roommate studied, but now she’s a SoulCycle instructor. Have you ever tried Soul?”)


woman wearing glasses dressed in black

7. Don’t use SAT words
Using big, intimidating words doesn’t make you sound smarter; it just makes you sound like you’re trying way too hard. It’s akin to when you wrote essays in college and used every inconsequential and superfluous filler word to occupy the vast expanse of unfilled page before of you. (See what we did there?) Instead, use clear, direct words and make your point. It’s far less pretentious, and the people you’re addressing will actually understand what you’re saying.

8. Wear glasses
Just kidding…kinda.

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...