1. Listen to educational podcasts on your commute.
2. Sign up for a few good email newsletters to score some extra factoids for casual conversation.
3. Whenever people are talking about the economy, just say, “It was all downhill after they repealed Glass-Steagall.”
After that, if you want to be able to enter a second level of conversation without running away, here’s some background. If not, probably just run away.
4. When someone asks you the last good book you read, just say “I can barely keep up with the New Yorker!”
If they ask you what your favorite recent New Yorker article was, don’t mention a cartoon.
5. On that note, have a favorite writer, book and artist ready to name drop.
Nothing is worse than sitting there awkwardly as you try to think of a book — literally ANY BOOK THAT’S EVER BEEN PUBLISHED. Not a good look.
6. Pick one or two longform essays to read each week.
7. Learn one new word a day and try to use it (naturally!) in conversation.
8. Memorize a poem.
Kinda corny, but can weirdly come in handy in certain situations. (Read: wooing an overly romantic type.)
9. Refer to an NPR personality by his or her first name only.
“I was listening to Ira this morning.” If they have to ask, you win.
Warning: also kinda douche-y.
10. Don’t assume wearing glasses makes you seem smarter.
It’s a dangerous game.
11. Hang out with people who are… less smart.
Not super recommended, ‘cause it’s not very fun, but technically does the trick.
12. Write emails with proper punctuation and capitalization.
Even writing in all lowercase can make you seem kinda silly.
13. Become knowledgeable about one random thing.
– People are much less likely to call bullshit on what you’re saying because of the randomness.
– After the first time you bring it up, it will come up in conversation more than you’d think, multiplying your “smart points.” (Note: not a thing.)
– You’ll know some weird, interesting stuff.
– It can sneakily mask that you don’t know lots of other, obvious stuff.