Factually Actually – What Happens When You Use ‘Actually’

Factually Actually

“I actually think that the word ‘actually’ should not actually be used so liberally when we speak, especially when we actually don’t mean it.”

Actually What?
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Sometimes, when a particular word is spoken too excessively, it loses meaning over time. And now, my friends, we are probably facing one of the most misused words of our generation – ‘actually’.

Let’s take some time to analyze this word. For starters, would the opening sentence have its meaning altered if we removed all the words ‘actually’? (Except the reference to the word ‘actually’ of course, I mean, you know what I mean.)

“I think that the word ‘actually’ should not be used so liberally when we speak, especially when we don’t mean it.”

Phew that sounded so much better. But wait, does this mean that the word ‘actually’ should be removed from the English Language?

We just checked, this word still exists in the English dictionary:

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary Definition
Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary Definition

Turns out that ‘actually’ actually exists for noble reasons – to distinguish reality from falsehoods, to clarify what would otherwise be misunderstood, and to give emphasis and empowerment to the very shred of truth among conniving lies that surround our misconstrued distorted world.

Actually Means
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Unfortunately, this poor word has, over the years, been bastardized and hackneyed and used to accentuate anything and everything.

Here are a few good reasons why you should kick the bad habit of littering your dialogue with unnecessary ‘actually’s:


1 – It becomes  a distracting filler word.

Actually How Many
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Fillers are words or sounds that you make when you are thinking of what to say next. Common fillers are ‘uhm’, ‘err’, ‘okay’, ‘alright’ and so on.

Remember the time when you just couldn’t concentrate on what your professor or teacher was saying because you were more interested in counting how many filler word he or she was going to utter?

All fillers have the same effect.

Use ‘actually’ too many times and whoever you’re speaking to is going to be anticipating your next use of the word and not look forward to what you are going to tell them.


2 – It’s potentially passive-aggressive

Actually judging
Image from Giphy

Communication is a two-way process. It’s not only how you say it, but also how the other party receives.

To illustrate, here’s an example:

Q: What service does your company offer?

A: “What our company does, is make brilliant websites for our clients”


Q: What service does your company offer?

A: “What our company actually does, is make brilliant websites for our clients”

Sense the passive-aggressiveness in the second reply?

You may not mean it that way, but such is the nature of the word ‘actually’. It’s especially so when used to accentuate the obvious,  rather than clarify a misconception.

Here’s another one. Compare these 2 comments:

“I think your proposal is great.”


“I actually think your proposal is great.”

The second sentence seems like it has a hidden meaning, doesn’t it? Could it mean that the proposal wasn’t expected to be good in the first place? (How do you the receiver will feel?)

Create less doubt in your statements. Ditch ‘actually’.


3 – You lose credibility

Actually Credibility
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This will probably be the greatest consequence. Remember, ‘actually’ exists to separate truth from what would otherwise be perceived as false.

By over-using the word, you are conditioning your listeners to assume that, unless you accentuate whatever you say with ‘actually’, anything else you say is not true!

“Our company believes that your space on the web has to represent who you are. What our company actually does, is make brilliant websites for our clients”

Notice that the second sentence negates the sentence before instead of augmenting it? Guess which word’s the culprit?

Now imagine a whole paragraph structured that way littered with ‘actually’s. That effectively slashes your credibility by half!


Purposefully ‘Actually’

After spending the post lambasting this word, we’re not suggesting anyone to eradicate it from your vocabulary.

We’re advocating the use of this word purposefully.

Purposefully Actually
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To help, here’s a handy guide: Use ‘actually’ in the sentence only when you want to fulfil BOTH these intentions

  1. You want to give EMPHASIS.
  2. You want to show CONTRAST.

Without either intentions, you’d find ‘actually’ redundant. i.e. It can be removed entirely and the meaning of the sentence will not change (as in the very first example in this post).

Let’s return this word the dignity and nobility it truly deserves. 

And not let bad habits cause us to be misunderstood. 🙂