10 Commonly Used Phrases To Avoid In Your Speeches

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on March 12, 2014 – 6:01 AM

There are a few phrases that always hit my ear badly when I hear speakers use them in response to an audience member’s question.

They’re all variations on the same theme; you can probably come up with several similar ones of your own. Each can make the person who utters them come across as annoyed, if not downright peevish.


The phrases are:

“As I mentioned earlier”

“As I already said in my email”

“As I said before”

“As I’ve already mentioned”

“Like I previously stated”

“As I wrote in the memo you received”

“Like I said”

“As I stated earlier”

“Like we discussed”

“As we covered at the beginning”

In my experience, the majority of speakers who utter these types of lines don’t do so because they’re annoyed. I’d guess many of them aren’t even aware that they said these lines at all.

Nonetheless, they can come across as an accusation to the audience—I already spoke about this! Why weren’t you listening to me?

Even though it can feel annoying to receive an audience question about material you already covered, keep these possibilities in mind: the person who asked the question might have entered the room late due to an unexpected doctor’s appointment; their mind may have drifted because the information you were sharing frightened them; or their attention span waned simply because they’re human. Worse, it may even be a sign that you’re giving a sleep-inducing talk.

The bottom line is that if you’re asked to restate something that you said earlier, just remain poised and say it a second time.

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Comments (8)

  1. By Rod:

    I agree. A couple of others, probably even more common than these, is to start answering a question with “So, …” or “Well, …”. I find “So, …” particularly distracting because it gives me the impression that the speaker has ignored the pending question and is continuing his statement prior to that question, as if the question had interrupted him.

  2. By Art Aiello:

    Great advice Brad. I actually have used such phrases with reporters as a passive-aggressive way to let them know that they’re starting to waste my time. Specifically, I’ve used it with reporters who have not done their homework prior to an interview and are asking me to repeat information that I already told them, but that they should have known before they ever began the interview. Mind you these occasions are few and far between; as a rule I like to be a go-to resource for reporters. But there have been a few who were “phoning it in” in terms of professionalism, and I have used the “as I said before” as a way of saying, “C’mon, we’ve been over this before, we’re 15 minutes into what you told me would be a 30 minute interview, and we haven’t even gotten to what you told me was going to be the subject of this interview.”

  3. By Sridhar Chandrasekaran:

    Interesting, informative and engaging article. A good presenter must also have excellent intrapersonal, interpersonal and interaction skills and these phrases to avoid is noteworthy. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading your post.

  4. By Chris Kelly:

    Thanks, Brad, for confirming what I already teach as using a clip of someone saying “as I said earlier” in a news clip sounds naff. But I also teach them them the alternative “Let me emphasise…” Which sounds good at the start of a clip and can be transferred to business meetings as well.

  5. By Brad Phillips:

    Hi Chris,

    I agree that “let me emphasize” is a strong phrase that both avoids an accusatory tone and focuses the listener’s ear on the forthcoming message.

    Thanks for reading the post and leaving a comment!


  6. By Ken Molay:

    Good list, Brad. Here’s another pet peeve of mine: “Before we get started.” The second you open your mouth, you have started! This phrase signals the audience that they should tune out… The next thing out of your mouth is not part of the topic they came to hear and is not relevant to the subject.

  7. By Brad Phillips:

    Great feedback, Ken.

    “Before we get started” also conveys a sense that you’ve prepared a “formal” presentation that has pre-determined and inflexible starting and end points. That may be true and appropriate, of course, but I’d rather not shine such an acute light on the presentation’s underlying structure. I’d rather ease into the presentation after any opening comments almost imperceptibly, taking the audience along for the ride with me.


  8. By Kevin:


    Thank you for taking time out to write this article; I appreciated the read and agree with many of your points.

    I feel that if a person is speaking and covering material which was previously mentioned and is relevant for the current portion of the speech/discussion, it is fine to say, infrequently, “As I mentioned earlier”, “As was discussed earlier”, etc. to help the audience make the logical connection.

    Otherwise, the speaker may be assuming, mistakenly, that every person listening/present made such a connection. For example, if one were providing a training on the topic of writing a formal business letter and the class has already learned about writing personal letters, it may be appropriate to compare and contrast the similarities of the two.

    For me personally, this helps me make the logical connection (modified block vs. full block, et cetera). However, I suspect Mr. Williams provides this warning against such use because of how frequently it is abused and used in a scornful way. As with most ‘things’ in written and verbal communication, tone (and posturing if applicable) is crucial. In college, I’ve had professors use these phrases and it did not come out scornful; however, just days ago (which inspired me to read-up on these phrases), a co-worker’s email response to a question I had began with, “Like I said, use …” I believe many, if not most readers of that email would not appreciate the tone.

    In closing, I disagree that some (not all) of these phrases may be used if done so with care, but agree that in general, it is best to avoid all of them and similar phrases out of your written and verbal communication. Without proper care and sincerity, they tend to ‘come off’ as passive aggressive, aggressive, or condescending, which to those practicing assertiveness, is counterproductive.



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