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Top 10 Ways to Seem Smarter than You Are

by Jamie Frater
fact checked by brunobanana

We all want to seem smart around workmates and acquaintances, but we often don’t have the time to put in to further study to achieve this. Luckily, there are a few ways you can make yourself seem smarter with a minimum of effort. This is a list of the ten best tips for appearing smarter.

10 Learn a topic to debunk

Global Warming

The majority of “hot topics” are debated by people with very little knowledge of the subject. A good example of this is global warming – the majority of people you speak to on this subject will tell you how we must change our habits to prevent global warming, but few will know what “anthropogenic global warming” is. Spend a little time learning what the real experts on these faddish topics say and you simply can’t go wrong. Try to remember some of the names of authors so you can quote them.

9 Improve your Vocabulary


The simplest way to do this is to subscribe to a “word a day” emailing list. Remember to ensure that you memorize the correct pronunciation and spelling of the new word or phrase. Perhaps you can start with mesonoxian, or any of the words on the Top 10 Weird English Words.

8 Obscure Knowledge


By developing knowledge in a very obscure area, you are very unlikely to meet someone else with the same knowledge. This means you can wax lyrical for hours and it doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make – no one will know, and you will seem ultra-smart. You might, for example, spend some time studying the early Egyptian dynasties (or an interesting character like Smenkhkare,) or the writings of early Christian writers. You can be sure that even the most staunch Southern Baptist fundamentalist has never heard of most of the “fathers of the Church”, let alone read anything they wrote. Saint Igantius of Antioch is a good start; you can follow up with Athenagoras, Irenaeus, Origen, Novatian, and Polycarp. Great subject matter for the Atheist who wishes to debate against fundamentalists.

7 General Knowledge

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This can be done very easily. Buy a Trivial Pursuit (Genus Edition) and memorize one card before going to bed each night. In no time you will have a fount of general knowledge so immense that no one will dare debate you at Friday night drinks. The other thing you can do to improve general knowledge is to read “This day in History” articles. Luckily, the List Universe prints a “Today in History” list on the right hand side of every page (underneath the latest 10 comments) with links to Wikipedia to get you started. Good Lord! I feel smarter just thinking about it!

6 Ask Questions

Question Mark (Wince)

The best way to use this trick is to ask questions when you already know the answer. This is a form of Irony when used in the right way; when the person you are questioning answers, you can ask a related question which will make it appear that you have taken in what they said, absorbed it, and wish to clarify an aspect of the topic. Additionally, when you are discussing a subject with someone who clearly knows less about it than you, you can ask questions that you know will make them stumble. This is particularly good if you have a large audience as everyone will be in awe of you. Make sure you are humble when the person’s weakness shows.

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5 Learn About Good Books

Good Literature-1907-1

Sparknotes. I repeat, sparknotes. Use the short notes found on this site to get a broad overview of famous classic novels. You only need to learn enough to make it seem that you have read the book. For a decent classic you should be able to do this in 30 minutes or less. And who knows, you may find that you want to read the book and gain some real intelligence.

4 Watch Movies


Watch some classic movies that are both good and bad. These movies don’t have to be silent movies, black and white, etc. Just good movies, fulfilling movies. Also, watch some bad movies. Someone who can spout off one or two good movies will sound either smart or fake. But someone who can state both good and bad movies, and justify why each is classified that way, will sound intelligent.

3 Learn Quotes


A great writer once said: “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone elses opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” – while this is amusing, it is not entirely correct when trying to appear smarter. People will be utterly in awe of you if you can quote a famous line from poetry, a great play, or a witticism by a literarary master. There are a million sites on the internet that will help you to find quotations. Learn one a day. If you wish to learn a few lines of poetry, I recommend starting with Plath, Ginsberg, or Whitman; everyone knows who they are, but few will be able to quote them. Oh – the quotation I used here is by Oscar Wilde.

2 Use Words you Know


Nothing makes you looks more like an idiot than fumbling language. Stick to what you know! People will argue that tapes and books can teach you new words, but you still risk a terrible mistake. Learning new words can broaden your thinking and amplify your ability to communicate. However, doing so will open you up to appearing stupid, so you should stick with words you are 100% positive of pronunciation and meaning. Even if it takes you an entire extra sentence to explain a concept that one word would have clarified instantly, it’s totally worth it.

1 Be Quiet


Quite simply, the less you say, the less you can say wrong. Oh, and smile and nod knowingly.

fact checked by brunobanana
Jamie Frater

Jamie is the founder of Listverse. When he’s not doing research for new lists or collecting historical oddities, he can be found in the comments or on Facebook where he approves all friends requests!

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