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How to Sound Smart Without Really Trying

Updated on January 16, 2008


Thankfully for most of us, people do not walk around with radar guns reading our IQ and SAT scores, or Myers Briggs evaluations. Strangers you meet at cocktail parties or at coffee shops cannot read the recent memorandum you wrote to your boss or email you typed to your daughter, both laced with despicable and inexcusable grammatical errors. This is unfortunate for intelligent people who have difficulty communicating and exhibiting their meaty minds. It is a blessing, however, for idiotic people who actually sound great. For those of you who can't even spell S-A-T or for you geniuses that mumble and "umm…" your way through conversations, the following aremy easy and cheap tips to sounding smart, or even smarter, than you think you are.

Though and Borders have myriads of books claiming they will make you Sound Smart by teaching you to Improve Your Vocabulary, these books are more likely to end up unread in your annual garage sale. By focusing on CURRENT EVENTS, RANDOM DETAILS, and VOCABULARY in your DAILY life you will fool others into thinking/knowing you are brilliant.

What you learn here will not necessarily improve your intelligence; I am teaching you how to SOUND intelligent. An obvious and beneficial consequence of this exercise, however, is that you will actually improve your intelligence! And you’ll hardly have to exercise any brain power to do it!


10-15 minutes/day

Obviously, reading is NOT a revolutionary method of improving intelligence-it’s the oldest trick in the book (pun obviously intended). STICK WITH ME, though! The important part of this tip is focusing on WHAT you read. You could be the foremost expert in the mapping of the Human Genome (which would mean you are J. Craig Venter), but if you don't know that Dennis Kucinich is a 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidate who claims to have seen a UFO, you are going to sound like an idiot.


5-10 minutes/day


The moment you finish reading this fascinating piece, go to and sign up for their daily newspaper summary, which gives short reviews of lead stories from the major daily newspapers. This should only take you about 5-10 minutes to read every morning (10 minutes if you’re really slow) and is a GREAT way to keep up-to-date on current events. If you need to know a bit more about a story included in the summary, click on the corresponding link and skim the actual article.


Cancel your subscription to PEOPLE magazine or [insert name of trashy entertainment news magazine here] immediately after signing up for the newsletter and subscribe to THE WEEK magazine at (only 99 cents per issue!). Just as the newsletter summarizes newspapers, THE WEEK summaries what magazines and newspapers from around the world are writing about pressing issues. THE WEEK's tagline, "Everything Important You Need to Know," couldn't be more accurate. With its science & technology, business, travel, arts & leisure, political cartoons, famous quotes and editorial sections, you will find yourself reading fascinating tidbits that are much more interesting than you thought articles in those sections would be (I didn't give a hoot about Science until THE WEEK, and now the Science section is the first one I turn to and has articles like,"Your office job might be killing you" . The real estate section is one of my favorites, and gives a sample of houses for sale in a specific market. This means there are PICTURES, my friends! THE WEEK even has a celebrity & gossip page for those of you who can't read enough garbage.

THE WEEK not only provides another way to LEARN about what is going on, it gives you a unique perspective about what media outlets in other countries are saying about current issues. Just imagine:

Your Boss: "Mike Huckabee [2008 Republican Presidential Nominee Candidate] will never be elected-he wants to quarantine people with AIDS!"

You: "Well idiotic views about AIDS haven't stopped other national leaders from being elected. The current South African President has previously said that he doesn't think HIV causes AIDS, and his successor, who will probably win the next election, has said that taking a shower after intercourse can ward off HIV."

The information "you" just presented was from a South African newspaper, the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian. I will discuss the importance of retaining a few details later, but note that "you" provided VERY few details. You didn't know the name of either leader, when their ignorant statements were made, or when the elections were. HOWEVER, YOU IMPRESSED YOUR BOSS!

I do not have enough accolades for THE WEEK; I will not let my boyfriend read it because I think everything interesting I say comes from the magazine, and I want him to think I'm interesting on my own accord...oh the deception! It works though, trust me.

Best of all, an ENTIRE issue will only take you about ONE HOUR to read-that is about the time it takes me to get through 1/8 of The Economist! Because you will receive one issue per week (obviously-since it is called THE WEEK, after all), this calculates to less than 10 minutes/day. That means you could read an entire issue during only TWO 30-minute sessions on the elliptical, or ONE DAY of commuting on the subway to or from work. AMAZING!

I have purchased this subscription as a holiday/birthday present for almost all of my friends in an attempt to wean them off their trashy magazines; so far, my attempts have been successful!


5-10 minutes/day


In the morning when you are in the shower or in the car driving to work, turn on your local NPR station. Boring, you think? Some may agree, but listening for two minutes won't kill you. You'll get a bit of the daily news and pick up some good talking points from their longer pieces.

Sound repetitive with the current events? THAT'S THE POINT! Repetition=retention!


Less than 30 seconds/day

Throwing in random details about a topic people are discussing will also make you sound knowledgeable. THE WEEK is a good place to get these random details because, as I mentioned before, they include coverage from around the world about different current events.

You should obviously not try to commit millions of details from THE WEEK to memory because in trying to do so, you won’t remember any of them. Instead, pick a few details that are specifically interesting to you. For example:

Co-Worker’s Lame Girlfriend at Company Holiday Party: “I hate real Christmas trees. Like, no one gets real trees anymore.”

You: “Actually, 2 out of 3 homes in America have real Christmas trees. To meet the huge demand for real trees, Christmas tree growers plant 73 million trees every year! And…you’re lame.”


1 minute/day

One of the most easily recognizable “measures of intelligence” is a person's vocabulary. Don't you acquiesce? Though you could purchase a book from about improving your vocabulary, there is a FREE way to do so without expending too much time with rote memorization and flash cards.

Again, it involves singing up! Go to and sign up for the Word-of-the-Day email. After reading your summary in your email inbox, read the Word of the Day, also delivered to your email inbox. If the word of the day is one you think you can use, write it on a list you keep near your computer and try to use it in a sentence that day. True, doing this everyday could be a bit tedious, so be choosey about those words you want to commit to memory. For example, the word, "friable \FRY-uh-buhl\, adjective:Easily crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder" is not necessarily a difficult word, but probably one I will not use frequently as I don’t cook and will therefore never need to buy some friable feta for a feast. On the other hand, "gesticulate \juh-STIK-yuh-layt\, intransitive verb: to make gestures or motions, especially while speaking or instead of speaking" is a word I use all the time.

PLEASE NOTE: DO NOT overuse some of your favorite "big words." If "gesticulate" is the only four-syllable word you utter and you do it daily, your efforts to deceive and sound brilliant will be defeated and you will just sound annoying and pretentious.


+ many minutes/day

The above tips are VERY easy, cheap, and require minimal time and commitment. If you want to sound REALLY smart, however, this tip is for you: TURN OFF THE TELEVISION!

Begin a phrase with, "I saw on TV last night," and you are immediately lowering your IQ whatever poor chap is listening to you. This isn't because there is nothing worth watching on television (the Discovery Channel and the History Channel have some very interesting programs), but because of the stereotypical image of a fat, fainéant fool laying around in front of the television. Consider the following:

Couch Potato: "I saw on TV last night that Dennis Kucinich has a hot, young wife."

Brilliant Bookworm: "I read this week that the ebullient Dennis Kucinich met his beautiful wife, who is almost half his age, when she came into see him on the Hill as a lobbyist."

After a week, you will NOT miss the television! You can keep one of your favorite shows as a perfunctory part of your week, but with all these others interesting outlets to keep you occupied, you will not enjoy your time with the television as much. Hurrah!



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    • profile image

      Nerd bird 

      7 years ago

      Lols great job! Im going to sound smarter after today

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      i wanna becooome smaartttttttttttttf

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      In order to sound the slightest bit 'smart' you're going to have to use grammar. This applies to a majority of you.

    • profile image

      Dr Gerald Phillips 

      8 years ago

      I found your article very interesting. My problem in life has not been lack of vocabulary but pronunciation. Oddly when I was a child I sustanied a head injury after falling on ice. Thank goodness it didn't affect my academic potential but pronunciation was something I felt I would never grasp. As for the phonetic alphabet WELL ! I like the Free Online Dictionary which has a link for American and UK English pronunciation. One just clicks on the appropriate flag and a voice gives a precise pronunciation. Do you have any guideline as I cannot possibly carry a computer around with me all day and mid conversation consult the dictionary on how to pronounce the next word I want to say ? I got through my medical exams by listening intently to how the Professors were pronouncing medical words.

    • profile image

      anonamouss dduurr 

      8 years ago

      Teehee the furst gauy yoused big words but furgouit to capitilse his furst i durur

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Are you sure about that Zoe? I mean at one point we all think about Wytensin BUT WE MUST FIGHT THE TEMPTATION!


    • profile image


      10 years ago

      im over it.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Yes but don't you think that if we could all touch eachothers Juncaceae. I think he would open a whole new way of Hancock.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      i do think that..i agree entirely. but the Actiniopteris in my nail enamal is getting to be a bit presumptuous. i think you might have to stagnation tomorrow.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I totally agree with you Zoe but my question is do you think the abridgment should not come near the Elapidae just in case it paratyphoid?

    • profile image

      Re:i is smrt 

      10 years ago

      My FLOCCI­NAUCINI­HILIPIL­IFICATION tingles when you touch me:)

      and your ANTI­DIS­ESTABLISH­MENT­ARIAN­ISM makes you look like a nnerd. eat my astilbe.

    • profile image

      I is smrt. 

      10 years ago

      I find my self quite euphemism thank you very much. And I think you should go byzantine a Svengali. HAHAHAHAHAH SNAAAPP PONDERLISM

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      i am quite the loquacious sesquipedalian myself. I am very much in agreement with this article however, why would you purposely equivocate?


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