Be Impeccable: Commonly Misused Phrases That Will Make You Sound Ignorant

Laura

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There are quite a few in this list that I see in articles that we pick up for sott, and a lot of them that appear in the writings of forum members. Ya'll need to be setting an example, so pay attention here!

And don't forget my pet peeve: Infer vs. Imply.


_https://www.workandmoney.com/s/commonly-misused-phrases-that-will-make-you-sound-unprofessional-1923fda75f53419d

It’s easy to fall into language traps that are all around us. And, of course, there’s something to be said for the ever-changing nature of common terms and phrases. After all, the dictionary is an ever-evolving entity that adds phrases and words all the time to reflect common usage. But that doesn’t mean you can’t at least strive for impeccable speech by understanding the best – or most commonly accepted – ways of saying certain words and phrases. Little tweaks in your language can help convey that you understand exactly what phrase you’re saying and are using it properly. Plus, if you’re writing an email or typing a response – and let’s be honest, so much communication that happens these days happens online – you’ll stay on top of using the right spelling and phrasing. And, hopefully, understanding the full context of where these common phrases come from

Keep in mind, too, that some of these common phrases you’ll won’t be able to hear the difference between the so-called “right” and “wrong” versions. And sometimes the “wrong” way to say something still has a perfectly legitimate meaning, even if it’s not the feeling you’re going for in that conversation.

Any advantage you can give yourself in the professional world, including use of proper language and phrases, can be really beneficial in your life and career. So, we researched common words and phrases that people too often get wrong. There’s a good chance you already know some of these, especially if you’re the type of person who is interested in language. But in case you want a quick refresher, here you go.

“For all intensive purposes” versus “For all intents and purposes”

Intensive indicates that something is powerful and focused. If you’re discussing an intensive purpose, you’re simply indicating one focused purpose, or perhaps a few very focused purposes. The more common phrases, for all intents and purposes, indicates that something is coming from more or less all important angles or opinions. So for all intents and purposes, all intensive purposes is a usually the wrong thing to say.

“I could care less” versus “I couldn’t care less”

This is an extremely commonly misused phrase. While most people love to throw out that they “could care less” in an attempt to show how little they care about an issue, they’re actually communicating the opposite of the usual phrase’s intention. When you stop to think about what you’re saying, “could care less” means you not only care, but you care enough that you would have the ability to care less if you wanted to. If you’re trying to convey apathy, saying “I couldn’t care less” is much more accurate.

“One in the same” versus “One and the same”

When you and a friend are discussing two different instances that you realize happened with the same person, you’re discussing one and the same person. It’s hard to determine what one in the same thing might mean, since “one” is a noun yet “the same” isn’t exactly a specific location for that noun to go.

“On accident” versus “By accident”

When something happens by accident, nobody saw it coming. It was a happenstance instance. But when something happens on an accident, it means that whatever went down actually went down on top of an already existing accident. And, in reality, that’s likely not what you were trying to say. So try not to say on accident by accident when you’re trying to describe a mistake, since that will make it a double whoopsie.

“Fall by the waste side” versus “Fall by the wayside”

Though the movie Remember the Titans made the left side of the football team’s defensive line the “strong side,” people rarely label “sides” in everyday life. Even more rarely, would they call any side of something the “waste side.” Unless, of course, they’re discussing an area where physical garbage is present. So if you want to communicate that something hasn’t kept up with the rest of the group, use “wayside.”

“Self-depreciating” versus “Self-deprecating”

Don’t give yourself another reason to be self-deprecating about your colloquial abilities by using the incorrect phrase “self-depreciating.” Depreciation is an economic term to indicate that something is losing value. Though you can deprecate and be hard on yourself, by pointing out your flaws you’re not automatically losing any human value.

“Irregardless” versus “Regardless”

Despite the fact that irregardless is technically in the dictionary, it is not a word most folks will ever need. To be fair, the phrase “tl; dr” (which means 'too long; didn’t read' for any non-Redditors out there) is also in the dictionary. Sometimes, colloquial words or phrases are added to the dictionary to reflect the fact that people are using them and to help other people understand what they might be saying.

But irregardless remains rather nonsensical (and repetitive), regardless of its place in the dictionary.

“Jive with” versus “Jibe with”


You’re more than welcome to jive with something. But just know that, at least in most business settings, you probably mean you jibe with it, not jive. To jive is a much more playful, often musical verb. But to jibe with something means you’re getting along with or understanding it. To jive with something means you’re likely spitting hot scat in the basement of a musical jazz club. So if that doesn’t jibe with what you’re trying get across, don’t use it.

“Tongue and cheek” versus “Tongue in cheek”

It may be tongue in cheek to try and get another person to say tongue and cheek, since you’ll be insincerely attempting to get someone to say something meaningless. When something is said tongue in cheek, there’s a feeling of exaggeration, sarcasm, or irony involved. When something is said tongue and cheek, well, it can really only mean that two facial organs were involved.

“Make do” versus “Make due”

Both of these phrases are perfectly useful in different situations. If you want to make do with something, you’re getting by with whatever you have. Making due means creating a deadline or due date for something. So if an employer hasn’t made a specific project due and isn’t giving you the resources you need to do it properly, you make do with what you have and finish it whenever you want.

“Nip it in the butt” versus “Nip it in the bud”


Let’s nip this commonly misused phrase in the bud right now. The origins of this phrase come from the idea of de-budding flowers. So there were actual buds involved. So think twice before you change that “bud” to a “butt” because you’ll be communicating something completely (and embarrassingly) different.

“Shoe-in” versus “Shoo in”

The difficult element of this phrase is that the wrong phrase (shoe in) has a really powerful visualization that makes it feel right. To say that someone has a “shoe in” to win feels like you’re trying to say they’ve already got their foot in the door (another common phrase). The actual phrase is a “shoo in” dates back to horse racing days when you could urge – or shoo – something towards victory.

“Piece of mind” vs “Peace of mind”

When you want to give yourself peace of mind, you might consider giving someone who upset you a piece of your mind. And though they’re said the same, their spelling indicates two very different meanings. Peace of mind is what comes when you know the conclusion or outcome of something, often indicating something positive has resulted. Piece of mind is sharing a bit of your own thoughts with another person, and is often done when someone has upset or frustrated you. So if you’re emailing your boss to give them peace of mind, be sure it doesn’t include an angry piece of your mind.

“Peek interest” versus “Peak interest” versus “Pique interest”

All three versions of this same-sounding word seem like they could work properly to indicate getting interested in something. But piqued actually means to excite or create interest or curiosity in. So, sure, you could technically peek at something interesting if you’re sneaking around. And you could also have reached your peak level of interest on a topic before wanting to move onto something else. But in terms of something piquing your interest, be sure to use this version of the phrase.

“Do good” versus “Do well”

The good and well debate is one that grammar lovers enjoy getting into regularly. It employs all sorts of juicy discussions about using adverbs instead of adjectives. To keep it simple, just remember that if you’re doing good, you’re likely giving generously to those around you. If you want to show that something was done properly or up to agreed upon standards, it was done well. So, Mother Teresa did good. And she did her job well.

“Mute point” vs “Moot point”

When you mute something, you render it silent. That’s why you can push the mute button on a remote. Yet when you decide something is a moot point, you make it irrelevant or subject to debate. There is no “moot” button on a remote because it’s a much more philosophical – and less physical – action.

"Nerve-wrecking" versus "Nerve-wracking"

Trying to use the phrase nerve-wracking correctly can cause you to be a nervous wreck. Perhaps that’s why so many people jump to the conclusion that nerve-wrecking and nerve-wracking are the same things.

The proper way to say your nerves are standing on end is that the situation is nerve-wracking. You can also use nerve-racking, since wracking and racking are essentially interchangeable.

"Buy in large" versus "By and large"

By and large is commonly credited as a sailing term. But in its original usage, it began as a phrase that means “in general,”“generally speaking,” or something that gives you some idea of generality.

Buying in large is something you typically do when you buy in bulk at a wholesale store, like Costco.

"Proceed" versus "Precede"

In this instance, both are legitimate words with perfectly useful meanings. But knowing the difference between them is integral to making sure your message is clear. If you want someone to continue talking, you ask them to proceed. If you want to talk before someone, you’re going to precede them in speaking.

"Shade light on" versus "Shed light on"

When you shed light on something, you bring it more clarity. It’d be interesting to learn how to shade light on something since shade hides light itself. You can shade light itself but to shade light on something maybe could mean you’re making it slightly more confusing (if you really wanted to keep using the term “shade light on.”)

Otherwise, if you want to denote that you’re bringing something more clarity, you want to shed light on it.

"Down the pipe" versus "Down the pike"

In Nintendo, Mario may travel down the pipe into new strange underground worlds. But in real life, something coming down the pipe simply means it’s actually traveling out of a pipe, theoretically thanks to gravity. The phrase down the pike comes from the idea of something coming down the turnpike and denotes that something is headed your way in the future.

"Doggie dog" versdus "Dog eat dog"


Doggie dog is an adorable description for your canine companion. Dog-eat-dog idiomatically means something is highly competitive or ruthless. So sometimes it can feel like a dog-eat-dog world, but at least we have adorable doggie dogs to cheer us up.

"Flush it out" versus "Flesh it out"

If you’re in a brainstorming meeting and you’ve got a kernel of an idea, you and your team may want to flesh it out. That means slowly but surely creating a whole idea by layering structures upon each other. But, say, in that same meeting there’s a small problem within the structure you already created and you can’t yet pinpoint what it is, you want to flush it out. To remember which of these two similar-sounding phrases you want to use, just think of the visuals involved.

"Physical year" versus "Fiscal year"

A physical year refers to the calendar year that helps everyone pass time in a universal manner. A fiscal year is a similar idea but only applied to finances. While everyone celebrates the passage of time in the physical year, typically only business people – especially those involved in the financial realm like accountants – follow the passing of each fiscal year.

"Deep-seeded" versus "Deep-seated"

The most confusing part about these phrases is the fact that both of them have compelling visuals. If you plant a deep seed, you assume that it’s safe and will eventually make its way to the light. And the phrase “deep-seated,” which is technically the correct terminology, means something that feels buried deeply within an already existing structure. So, while both totally make sense, if you really have a deep-seated need to be grammatically correct at all times, avoid using “deep-seeded.”

"Sneak peak" versus "Sneak peek"

While these two phrases would be impossible to decipher in a verbal conversation, you’ll only ever want to write one of these if you want to be accurate.

A peak is a noun, describing the top of some physical place like a mountain. So if you sneak a peak, you’re somehow slyly getting the top of a mountain into a surprising location, which doesn’t really make sense. The correct term is a sneak peek, which means you’re slyly giving someone the chance to quickly glimpse at something.

"Bemused" versus "Amused"

Though they both are descriptions of relatively dramatic emotions, they are on opposite ends of the feelings spectrum. To be bemused by something is to become bewildered by it. To be amused by something is to enjoy it. So if you go see a scary mystery movie, you’re choosing to possibly become temporarily bemused for the sake of being amused.

"Anyways" versus "Anyway"

There is nothing wrong with saying anyways in casual conversation. But, adding an “s” to the end of anyway makes the conversation significantly more colloquial and relaxed. If you’re in the middle of a professional presentation, consider dropping the “anyways” and keeping your speech crisp, clear, and technically correct with “anyway.”

"Escape goat" versus "Scapegoat"

If you’re using a goat as transportation to escape from a situation you don’t want to be in, you could call that animal an escape goat and you would be technically correct. But if you’re looking to describe a person that is taking the brunt of the blame for some difficult or trying situation, you would call him or her a scapegoat.

"Without further adieu" versus "Without further ado"

Adieu is when you bid someone a fancy farewell. Ado is a delightful phrase for hubbub, hullabaloo, or fuss (which are all also really fun words). If you’re trying to say that you want to cut right to the heart of the matter, you want to get to it without further ado. If you want to end an interaction with some flair, you would say, “Adieu.” Of course, if you’re in the middle of a bunch of people saying “adieu” to no end and you want it to be done, you could write “without further adieu.” Then again, you could also say “without further ado” and cover two birds with one stone.

"Step foot" versus "Set foot"

Both of these phrases have been around in our language for a very long time and both are, more or less, interchangeable. But, the phrase “set foot” as in “The minute I set foot in that room I want it to be ready,” is significantly more popular and, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, seems to be a couple centuries older than its similar-sounding predecessor.

"Should of" versus "Should have"

The biggest reason people often get these two phrases confused is because of the way "should have" contracts. The contraction of “should have” becomes “should’ve” which, if you say it quickly in everyday conversation, certainly sounds like “should of.” And while maybe no one in your fantasy football league will hear the difference between “I should’ve traded my QB when I got the chance” and “I should of traded my QB when I got the chance,” in a more professional setting you should always have the have in your correspondence.

"Try and" versus "Try to"

If you say, in everyday conversation, that you’re going to “try and do something,” the world will not end and even the most stringent Grammar Police will likely let the phrase slide. It’s so common that people don’t even think twice about using the two phrases. But since we’re going to try to set the record straight about the technical proper phrases, it should be noted that “try to” is grammatically correct. When you try to do something, you’re attempting to move towards some stated goal. But when you try and do something, you’re trying and then doing something else. You can try and fail if you attempt to reach for something and fall short. Or you can try to fail if you purposefully want to not reach your stated goal.

"Beckon call" versus "Beck and call"


If you have a friend named Beckon and they dial you up, you can happily say you’re going to take this Beckon call knowing you are completely grammatically correct. But if you want to say that you’re actively listening for an outside demand or request so you can fulfill it quickly, you’d want to say you were at someone’s beck and call.

"Hone in" versus "Home in"

Like many of these examples, both of these are correct in their own way. But knowing the difference between the two extremely similar sounding phrases will help make sure you are always nailing the proper meaning. When you hone in on something, you’re focusing in and, theoretically, becoming distinctly better at it – like a skill or trade. But when you home in on something, you’re moving towards a larger goal or target. It’s easy to remember if you think about it when it comes to a specific goal. When you want to home in on your goal of becoming more musical, you’ll want to hone in your piano playing.

"Case and point" versus "Case in point"

Likely derived from shortening the similar phrase, “in a point of fact,” case in point means you’re specifically focused on and calling out a matter at hand as an example to forward your argument. Using “and” to connect two words typically denotes that there are separate actions or ideas involved. So while it’s not wrong to say “case and point,” it may sound like you’re casing a place as if to size it up for a robbery and pointing at specific elements.
 

genero81

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Thanks Laura, you're right. If English is your first language then there's really no excuse. It's just a matter of being diligent. (having or showing care and conscientiousness in one's duties) Impeccable is a good word. (in accordance with the highest standard of propriety, faultless)
 

Nienna

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A few of others:

Where - were - we're

"Where" is a place: "Where are we going?" "Were" is a verb,: "Yes, we were there." And "we're" is a contraction of we are: "We're all in this together."

Weather - whether

"Weather" is what is going on in the sky/air around us, such as: What's the weather like at your place?" "Whether" is a conjunction (I am getting this from the dictionary) and used to introduce an alternative: "It doesn't matter to me whether we go or stay."

Then, there's:

There - their - they're

"There" is a place: "It's over there." "Their" is a possessive pronoun: "Their things can go over there." ;) "They're is a contraction of they are: "They're all coming over to our place tomorrow."

fwiw
 
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Adaryn

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Another common mistake: to confuse affect and effect.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/usage/affect-or-effect

Affect and effect are different in meaning, though frequently confused. Affect is chiefly used as a verb and its main meaning is ‘to influence or make a difference to’, as in the following example sentences:

The pay increase will greatly affect their lifestyle.

The dampness began to affect my health.

The weather will affect my plans for the weekend.

Effect, on the other hand, is used both as a noun and a verb, although is more commonly used as a noun. As a noun it means ‘a result or an influence’, as in:

Move the cursor until you get the effect you want.

The beneficial effects of exercise are well documented.

Over time the effect of loud music can damage your hearing.

When used as a verb effect means ‘to bring something about as a result’. It’s most often used in a formal context as oppose(d) to everyday English:

Growth in the economy can only be effected by stringent economic controls.

The new policies did little to effect change.

The prime minister effected many policy changes.

The key thing to remember is that effect is most commonly used as a noun, whereas affect is typically used as a verb.
 

1984

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Nienna said:
A few of others:

Where - were - we're

"Where" is a place: "Where are we going?" "Were" is a verb,: "Yes, we were there." And "we're" is a contraction of we are: "We're all in this together."

Weather - whether

"Weather" is what is going on in the sky/air around us, such as: What's the weather like at your place?" "Whether" is a conjunction (I am getting this from the dictionary) and used to introduce an alternative: "It doesn't matter to me whether we go or stay."

Then, there's:

There - their - they're

"There" is a place: "It's over there." "Their" is a possessive pronoun: "Their things can go over there." ;) "They're is a contraction of they are: "They're all coming over to our place tomorrow."

fwiw
Add 'then' and 'than' to the list too. 'Then' is commonly used to express a sense of time or what comes next or used to be. 'Than' is used to form comparisons between two things. Example: I will go home, and 'then' I will go to the store. I'd rather do that 'than' stop later today.'
 
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Siberia

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Some people use "to" instead of "too". But I'm not a native speaker myself and will learn from this thread along with others, so thank you everyone for your input. :)
 

bjorn

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FOTCM Member
[quote author= 1984]Add 'then' and 'than' to the list too. 'Then' is commonly used to express a sense of time or what comes next or used to be. 'Than' is used to form comparisons between two things. Example: I will go home, and 'then' I will go to the store. I'd rather do that 'than' stop later today.'[/quote]

Thank you, finally this mystery has been solved for me. I know it's easy to look up, but at the moment I'm prioritizing getting my own language up to an acceptable level before I proceed to others.

Keep them coming! :)
 

bjorn

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Recently I stumbled upon the following small grammar lesson I found helpfull:


People often don’t know when to use less and when to use fewer in a sentence. Here’s how to get it right.


Use fewer if you’re referring to people or things in the plural (e.g. houses, newspapers, dogs, students, children). For example:

People these days are buying fewer newspapers.

Fewer students are opting to study science-related subjects.

Fewer than thirty children each year develop the disease.



Use less when you’re referring to something that can’t be counted or doesn’t have a plural (e.g. money, air, time, music, rain). For example:

It’s a better job but they pay you less money.

People want to spend less time in traffic jams.

Ironically, when I’m on tour, I listen to less music.


Less is also used with numbers when they are on their own and with expressions of measurement or time, e.g.:

His weight fell from 18 stone to less than 12.

Their marriage lasted less than two years.


Heath Square is less than four miles away from Dublin city centre.
 

Adaryn

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Another one:

‘Loose’ or ‘lose’?

loose [lOOs] adj not fastened or pre-packed; not tied up or confined; able to move freely; not tight, not firmly fixed; not close-fitting; careless, inaccurate, vague; dissolute, immoral; not closely woven; flabby; (of bowels) inclined to diarrhoea; l. box stable or van in which an animal can move about; at a l. end uncertain what to do next; unoccupied ~ loose adv in a loose way; play fast and l. behave rashly or unscupulously ~ loose n release; on the l. free from restraint; on a spree; ~ loose v/t untie, undo; release from confinement or constraint, set free; detatch; fire (gun); shoot (arrow); (eccles) absolve.

lose (p/t and p/part lost) [lOOz] v/t and i no longer have; be deprived of by accident or misfortune; mislay, fail to find; fail to get or win; be too late for; be bereaved of; waste; be defeated or beaten; suffer loss, become worse off; fail to hear, see or understand; cause or allow to perish; (of clock or watch) go too slowly; (refl) miss the right path; become absorbed in; l. one's head become flustered, panic; l. one's temper grow angry; l. one's way fail to find the right path; l. out (US) be defeated after a struggle.
Ex: Don't think you're a loser because of your loose grammar and spelling. You should never lose hope of improving yourself.

;)
 

Renaissance

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A few more:

"Begs the question" has a particular meaning when identifying an argument that isn't supported. It's often misused in an attempt to say that an issue "raises the question".

Another one is the use of literally in place of its opposite figuratively : "I literally died laughing." That literally did not happen.
 

Goemon_

Jedi Master
Laura said:
"Step foot" versus "Set foot"

Both of these phrases have been around in our language for a very long time and both are, more or less, interchangeable. But, the phrase “set foot” as in “The minute I set foot in that room I want it to be ready,” is significantly more popular and, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, seems to be a couple centuries older than its similar-sounding predecessor.
The bold part doesn't seems right. Is that a mistake or do I miss something ?
 

SevenFeathers

Jedi Master
Great list and glad to say I am not guilty of using any of those incorrectly.

Laura, I notice you spell our southern word as "ya'll". I have always spelled it "y'all" as in "you all". I grew up in Alabama and we said y'all a lot, but never to a single person as they do on TV. Is ya'll correct or is that a different contraction than for "you all"?
 

Chu

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I didn't know how to spell "moot point". :-[


Another one:

It’s is a contraction for "it is" or "it has."
--- “It’s time to go.”

Its is a possessive pronoun.
---“The jury has reached its decision.”

and http://dictionary.cambridge.org/fr/grammaire/grammaire-britannique/especially-or-specially
Especially and specially are adverbs.

Especially means ‘particularly’ or ‘above all’:

She loves flowers, especially roses.

I am especially grateful to all my family and friends who supported me.

Not: Especially I am …

We use specially to talk about the specific purpose of something:

This kitchen was specially designed to make it easy for a disabled person to use.

He has his shirts made specially for him by a tailor in London.

Especially can also be used to mean ‘for a particular purpose’:

I bought these (e)specially for you.
I only learned that one recently, and now I see that even Native English speakers confuse them very often.
 

A Jay

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Goemon_ said:
Laura said:
"Step foot" versus "Set foot"

Both of these phrases have been around in our language for a very long time and both are, more or less, interchangeable. But, the phrase “set foot” as in “The minute I set foot in that room I want it to be ready,” is significantly more popular and, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, seems to be a couple centuries older than its similar-sounding predecessor.
The bold part doesn't seems right. Is that a mistake or do I miss something ?
It's correct. Predecessor means something that came before something else. Usually it's used in reference to age or time, but in this case it just means that step foot was listed first in the series '"Step foot" versus "Set foot"'. Similar to the use of 'former' and 'latter' (former in this case) to distinguish between two things being discussed. Hope that makes sense.

Another one is 'toe the line' versus 'tow the line':

The idiom is toe the line, not tow the line. The phrase derives from track-and-field events in which athletes are required to place a foot on a starting line and wait for the signal to go. Race officials used to shout "Toe the line!" where now they shout "On your marks!" Since entering the language, the idiom has developed to mean do what is expected or act according to someone else's rules or expectations.
 
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