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_zen_'s avatar

"Actually" and "To be honest" - I understand why one would say these things - but why would someone write them?

Asked by _zen_ (7799 points ) May 22nd, 2011

It’s a reflex, a stall for more time, if you will, but it sort of implies the opposite; up until now you weren’t be actual or honest? Now you will be?

So why write it? Why begin and a written answer with To be honest? I don’t think it lends support or credibility – I find it quite odd. I asked a question, you know the answer. What is it? Why the need to precede it with To be honest?

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25 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Actually, I use actually when I write occasionally. I don’t consider it in the same league with “to be honest,” which I never use, because I am always honest.

I don’t trust what is said or written after “to be honest.”

_zen_'s avatar

I agree @marinelife – and I am referring more to To be honest – which I just came across here – it wasn’t in the middle of the post, it started the answer – I won’t link it of course.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

People just like to hear themselves write… ;)
“I never write metropolis for seven cents because I can get the same price for city. I never write policeman because I can get the same money for cop”-Mark Twain

rebbel's avatar

Although i probably have used it myself too, here and elsewhere, i totally agree with you.
I always notice it when people start a sentence with to be honest….
My brother was for some years the spokesman to a minister in the Dutch government.
She did a radio interview one day and i listened to it so i could give some feedback to my brother later on.
She almost started every sentence with it, and to me it made her sound very dishonest, actually….

Kayak8's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille Well put! I write just like I talk, so sometimes these features of speech are incorporated into my writing. I don’t use them in my professional writing, but they do creep into my personal correspondence and journaling.

jca's avatar

I live in NY metro area, and a lot of people around here will preface a sentence (verbal) with “I gotta be honest with ya.” I don’t talk like that nor do I write like that. To me, the assumption would be that whatever someone says, they’re being honest.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

“Actually” bugs the daylights out of me. When I read or hear it, there is an implied “you dummy!” that immediately follows it. “To be honest” typically seems to precede a message that might come across as controversial or a confession that they normally would keep their mouth shut about.

Sometimes, it is just a matter of habit, like saying “Um” or “Ah” at the beginning of a sentence or “Okay?” at the end. Like @Kayak8 points out, she types out her thoughts in the manner that she speaks. I suspect many people are the same way.

I once took a couple of college courses from a professor that started almost every sentence with, “Be that as it may”. I would keep track of how often it was said with tic marks in a notebook. If he were on this site, I’d out him in a minute.

JLeslie's avatar

I use both. I write as I speak, because fluther many times feels like a conversation, not a formal essay.

mazingerz88's avatar

“To be honest” is just a nonchalant, subconscious reinforcement that what you are about to declare comes from the heart and is truly sincere.

Cruiser's avatar

IMO there is a huge difference in the two….“actually”...IMO is suggesting a redirection of thought towards a more focused conclusion.

“To be honest” is a redirection of personal conviction where ambiguity may have occupied the thought process probably due to reservations on telling all there is to tell.

filmfann's avatar

When people say to me “To be honest…”, I jump in and say “Wait, you’re being honest now? When were you not honest? Have you been lying to me this entire time? Why else would you frame THIS comment like that?”
Eventually, everyone stops talking to me…

flutherother's avatar

“To be honest” suggests you have something a little tactless or hurtful to say and that you hold the listener in such high regard that you will tell them the truth rather than be diplomatic. I don’t think it works so well in cold print which hasn’t the intimacy of speaking face to face.

Sunny2's avatar

What @Kayak8 said. I write like I talk , particularly when answering a question from someone. I use actually, or to be honest when, in the middles of an explanation I realize what I am saying is not the exact truth. I’m making my statement more accurate. It’s usually a clarification of hemming and hawing over something. For example: Invited to go somewhere, I may be agreeable until I find out it’s to do something I don’t care to do. At which point, “To tell the truth, I don’t care for rollerskating,” may come out .

Coloma's avatar

I think it is just habit, a figure of speech, not to be too over thought IMO.
Although I get that, if you wish to split hairs, it implies that one is not usually honest. lol

Meh…don’t sweat the small stuff! ;-)

Luiveton's avatar

It just indicates that a person is willing to tell their truthful opinion or give honest advice. ‘To be honest’
It’s also a habit and, To be honest, it’s fun to write. I always say; ‘But like’ , and I have to say at least 5 ‘like’ s in every sentence. And I also say ‘whatever’ alot.

And, so yeah.

anartist's avatar

It could be used as a transitional element, moving from something like common misperceptions to a more careful analysis. A little folksy tho.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

When I say “to be honest” I’m not saying that I wasn’t honest before, so much as that it wasn’t necessarily the whole truth. Like…. Ok, I might say that I planted oregano because it’s in a pizza planter, so it just seemed right. But if pressed, I might elaborate that “to be honest”, I’m not a big fan of oregano, but the price was right and sometimes I have problems with impulse shopping, so I bought it. It’s not that the first one isn’t right, it’s just not the whole picture. Or like saying that I’m tired, and that’s why I want to go home, which is true, but I might confide to a close friend that in addition to being tired, “to be honest” my tummy is feeling a bit iffy.

If you really want to overanalyze something people just sorta say, how about when you tell them something and they react with “are you kidding”? And you’re like, wow, seriously, you think I’m going to lie about the fact that milk was 30% off? Don’t you think if I was going to lie to you, it’d be better than that? Don’t you think I’d, at the very least, make it 50% off?

Kardamom's avatar

I think when people say or write, “To be honest” they are about to tell you something very direct, without sugar coating it. I’ve noticed on this site, that sometimes an OP will ask a question, then they will receive 1 to 100 really good, helpful answers that may be similar.

Most people on Fluther at least attempt to be polite in the first place, but after certain OP’s just don’t seem to be getting the message, they are likely to get an answer that starts with “To be honest” followed by the same advice that the other 100 people gave, but in a much more blunt manner.

The first answer might be something like: “I really think you should evaluate the relationship that you have with this guy. Something is clearly wrong.”

The 101st answer might be something like: “To be honest, you need to break up with this guy now! He told you that he was sleeping with your best friend. Unless you enjoy being treated like crap, then you need to break up with him.”

The term “actually” is often put into spoken responses or written responses after someone has misinterpreted part or all of what the speaker was saying. Such as: “Actually, Bob, what I meant was that your wife is cheating on you, not just that she spends a lot of time out of the house at night.”

Neizvestnaya's avatar

“To be honest…” means I’m going to tell you my own opinion/experience rather than what/how I think it should be.

Actually, that was a little harsh what they said to her. To be honest though, I’d can her ass asap and get it over with.

Coloma's avatar

Honestly….can we be honest here?
Have we not honestly, talked this honesty thing into the ground?
Honestly! ;-)

Stefaniebby's avatar

I use both. I write as I speak. I don’t think it’s unnecessary or that I’m trying to be credible. I just say “Honestly” and “To be honest”, quiiite a bit.
Honestly, I think @mazingerz88 hit it right on the nose. ;)

perspicacious's avatar

To be conversational.

bob_'s avatar

Actually, I don’t see what the problem is, so to be honest, I think you should just chill.

_zen_'s avatar

I don’t want to link to it – but it wasn’t in the middle of a paragraph, or even after the second sentence. It was to begin a post.nI thought it strange that someone in response to something would begin with To be honest – of course it’s not a big deal.

I don’t think it’s very serious, especially not here, where we (oftentimes) write the way we would speak. It was to create a discussion. Thanks for all your posts.

ucme's avatar

It’s the same as when people say ”well at the end of the day.” What? Your point is only valid at nightfall?

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