For better or worse, in today’s world you are judged by how you communicate. There are lots of words and phrases in the English language that are easily misspelled or misunderstood, but as a professional writer and editor I have to be aware of the correct usage. It doesn’t matter how big or how small your publication is; if you use improper English then your authority can be overruled by your ignorance.
Below are some of the things that are mis-used. Some are rather funny, and you wouldn’t really know what people are really thinking until it is written down.
Frowned a pond. Mis-use of this phrase is frowned upon.
Intensive purposes. “For all intents and purposes”.
Mute point. You probably meant “moot” point. I guess someone who is non-verbal could make a point, but that’s probably not what was intended.
Irregardless. There is no such word. You meant “regardless”.
Supposably. You mean “supposedly”… as in something was “supposed” to happen. )
Would of. You meant “would have”.
I could care less. That means you do care, at least a little.
Drive safe (drive safely)
Reap what you sew. To sow is to plant something. Reaping is to harvest the thing you planted. To sew is to prepare fabric.
Breath vs. Breathe. Breath is a noun. Breathe is a verb.
Tow the line. It’s “toe the line”. During debates, there were lines on the floor to keep your toes behind. If you stayed behind this line then you were out of reach of your opponent’s saber.
Worth your wild. It’s “worth your while”.
Pall Meadow bug instead of Palmetto bug
Affect vs. Effect
Enormity means outrageous, not size.
Nonplussed means bewildered instead of unimpressed.
Redundant means beyond necessary, not mildly amused.
Plethora means a super abundance, not having too much.
Unique is more than just unusual, but truly one of a kind. As in there is not another one like it.
Flushing Out vs Fleshing Out. Flushing something out is revealing something that already exists but is hidden (like flushing out quail during a hunt). Fleshing out means to “add to” something that already exists but not well defined. Artists usually start with a skeletal frame and then “flesh out” the rest of the body.
Hone in on. It’s “home in on”.
Imply vs. Infer. To infer is to figure out. To imply is to suggest.
Oxymoron is more subtle than “contradiction in terms”. It is a deliberate apposition of contrast or words (e.g. “parting is such sweet sorrow”).
Apposition vs Opposition. Appose is to switch or contrast, oppose is positive and negative.
Lead vs. Led
Party Harty. Party hardy.
Data is always plural.
Are you done? No, you’re finished.
Your vs. you’re. “You’re” is a contraction meaning “you are”.
It’s is always “it is”.
Plural of “it” is “its”. Always. No exceptions.
Physical Year vs. Fiscal Year.
You don’t wreck havoc, you wreak it.
Have less of something like milk or sand, cars or paper clips you have fewer
Wreckless driving. While you may have not had a “wreck”, reckless driving is driving dangerously.
Ice sickles instead of icicles
Decimate means a 10-percent destruction rate. This comes is a Roman term meaning to kill one in ten (hence deci). You do not completely destroy your opponent when they have been decimated.
Rationalize means to justify instead of “make excuses for”.
Waxing vs. Waning. Waxing means “increasing”. Waning means “decreasing”.
Untitled vs. Entitled.
Lack Toast and Tolerant. I actually encountered this once. They meant to write “lactose intolerant”.
Midas whale. I believe this was supposed to be “might as well”.
Blessing in this guys. Blessing in disguise.
To eaches own. To each his own.