Handy Reference for Everyday Word Mix-Ups

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Capt MJ, May 12, 2017.

  1. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ 10-Year Member

    Sep 27, 2008
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    How could the author not include the perennial SAF favorite, principal (nom) vs principle (wrong for nom)?!

    Below article copied from The Ladders, a career tool, and authored by Travis Bradberry, whom I enjoy following on LinkedIn:

    20 misused words that make smart people look dumb
    By Travis Bradberry
    Mar 14, 2017
    We’re all tempted to use words that we’re not too familiar with.

    If this were the only problem, I wouldn’t have much to write about. That’s because we’re cautious with words we’re unsure of, and, thus, they don’t create much of an issue for us.

    It’s the words that we think we’re using correctly that wreak the most havoc.

    We throw them around in meetings, e-mails and important documents (such as resumes and client reports), and they land, like fingernails across a chalkboard, on everyone who has to hear or read them.

    We’re all guilty of this from time to time, myself included.

    When I write, I hire an editor who is an expert in grammar to review my articles before I post them online. It’s bad enough to have a roomful of people witness your blunder and something else entirely to stumble in front of 100,000!

    Point is, we can all benefit from opportunities to sharpen the saw and minimize our mistakes.

    Often, it’s the words we perceive as being more “correct” or sophisticated that don’t really mean what we think they do. There are 20 such words that have a tendency to make even really smart people stumble.

    Have a look to see which of these commonly confused words throw you off.

    Accept vs. Except

    These two words sound similar but have very different meanings. Accept means to receive something willingly: “His mom accepted his explanation” or “She accepted the gift graciously.”

    Except signifies exclusion: “I can attend every meeting except the one next week.”

    To help you remember, note that both except and exclusion begin with ex.

    Affect vs. Effect

    To make these words even more confusing than they already are, both can be used as either a noun or a verb.

    Let’s start with the verbs. Affect means to influence something or someone; effect means to accomplish something. “Your job was affected by the organizational restructuring” but “These changes will be effected on Monday.”

    As a noun, an effect is the result of something: “The sunny weather had a huge effect on sales.” It’s almost always the right choice because the noun affect refers to an emotional state and is rarely used outside of psychological circles: “The patient’s affect was flat.”

    Lie vs. Lay

    We’re all pretty clear on the lie that means an untruth. It’s the other usage that trips us up. Lie also means to recline: “Why don’t you lie down and rest?” Lay requires an object: “Lay the book on the table.” Lie is something you can do by yourself, but you need an object to lay.

    It’s more confusing in the past tense. The past tense of lie is—you guessed it—lay: “I lay down for an hour last night.” And the past tense of lay is laid: “I laid the book on the table.”

    Bring vs. Take

    Bring and take both describe transporting something or someone from one place to another, but the correct usage depends on the speaker’s point of view. Somebody brings something to you, but you take it to somewhere else: “Bring me the mail, then take your shoes to your room.”

    Just remember, if the movement is toward you, use bring; if the movement is away from you, use take.

    Ironic vs. Coincidental

    A lot of people get this wrong. If you break your leg the day before a ski trip, that’s not ironic—it’s coincidental (and bad luck).

    Ironic has several meanings, all of which include some type of reversal of what was expected. Verbal irony is when a person says one thing but clearly means another. Situational irony is when a result is the opposite of what was expected.

    O. Henry was a master of situational irony. In “The Gift of the Magi,” Jim sells his watch to buy combs for his wife’s hair, and she sells her hair to buy a chain for Jim’s watch. Each character sold something precious to buy a gift for the other, but those gifts were intended for what the other person sold. That is true irony.

    If you break your leg the day before a ski trip, that’s coincidental. If you drive up to the mountains to ski, and there was more snow back at your house, that’s ironic.

    Imply vs. Infer

    To imply means to suggest something without saying it outright. To infer means to draw a conclusion from what someone else implies. As a general rule, the speaker/writer implies, and the listener/reader infers.

    Nauseous vs. Nauseated

    Nauseous has been misused so often that the incorrect usage is accepted in some circles. Still, it’s important to note the difference. Nauseous means causing nausea; nauseated means experiencing nausea.

    So, if your circle includes ultra-particular grammar sticklers, never say “I’m nauseous” unless you want them to be snickering behind your back.

    Comprise vs. Compose

    These are two of the most commonly misused words in the English language. Comprise means to include; compose means to make up.

    It all comes down to parts versus the whole. When you use comprise, you put the whole first: “A soccer game comprises (includes) two halves.” When you use compose, you put the pieces first: “Fifty states compose (make up) the United States of America.”

    Farther vs. Further

    Farther refers to physical distance, while further describes the degree or extent of an action or situation. “I can’t run any farther,” but “I have nothing further to say.”

    If you can substitute “more” or “additional,” use further.

    Fewer vs. Less

    Use fewer when you’re referring to separate items that can be counted; use less when referring to a whole: “You have fewer dollars, but less money.”

    Bringing it all together

    English grammar can be tricky, and, a lot of times, the words that sound right are actually wrong.

    With words such as those listed above, you just have to memorize the rules so that when you are about to use them, you’ll catch yourself in the act and know for certain that you’ve written or said the right one.

    This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

    Dr. Travis Bradberry is the coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and the cofounder of TalentSmart.
  2. AF6872

    AF6872 10-Year Member

    Mar 4, 2007
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    And the Principal is your "PAL" not your principle.
  3. Dixieland

    Dixieland 5-Year Member

    Mar 10, 2010
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    And "advice" and "advise" are two different words. You can ask someone's advice OR you can ask someone to advise you.

    (As a personal pet peeve, I would like to ban the word "literally" until people learn how to use it properly.) :wink:
    KP2020Dad and Capt MJ like this.
  4. brovol

    brovol Member

    May 26, 2015
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    Capt, that is gold. I am not too proud to admit a couple of those I had no idea, and it was more than just getting them confused. Reading those did not make me nauseous, so don't worry, you shouldn't get sick hanging around me; but realizing my stupidity did make me a bit nauseated.
    Capt MJ likes this.
  5. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ 10-Year Member

    Sep 27, 2008
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    And then there is capital and capitol...
    AF6872 likes this.
  6. CA_USNA_Dad

    CA_USNA_Dad Member

    Dec 29, 2016
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    Language evolves over time. A secondary definition of "literally" is "used in an exaggerated way to emphasize a statement or description that is not literally true or possible." So, the people that you think are using "literally" incorrectly may be using it correctly after all, at least according to Merriam-Webster.
    Capt MJ likes this.
  7. Capri120

    Capri120 Parent

    Feb 10, 2016
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    Let's add insure versus ensure -- one of my pet peeves -- from the Merriam Webster dictionary:

    Definition of insure; insured; insuring
    1. transitive verb
    2. 1 : to provide or obtain insurance on or for
    3. 2 : to make certain especially by taking necessary measures and precautions
    4. intransitive verb
    5. : to contract to give or take insurance

    Definition of ensure; ensured; ensuring
    1. transitive verb
    2. : to make sure, certain, or safe : guarantee
    Capt MJ likes this.
  8. madhttr

    madhttr AROTC Dad

    Aug 23, 2016
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    Another personal pet peeve (can we add mispronunciations?): Nucular for Nuclear. GW Bush is famous for this, but he is by no means alone. Drives me nuts every time I hear it!

    BUT, I just now looked it up and Merriam-Webster has both as variant pronunciations along with an explanation about the former's "widespread use among educated speakers including scientists, lawyers, professors, congressmen, U.S. cabinet members, and at least two presidents and one vice-president." That may be true it doesn't make it right in my book!
    AROTC-dad likes this.
  9. xyz321

    xyz321 Member

    May 6, 2016
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    I so totally agree. Drives me insane. But not as insane as "bigly". Which may actually exist. And yet.... no, just no!
  10. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006 10-Year Member

    Nov 25, 2007
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    "I so totally agree" drives me insane.
  11. Day-Tripper

    Day-Tripper 5-Year Member

    May 16, 2014
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    Ok, here's my thing.....

    It's a common Southernism to say "you all" as "y'all", right? I get it. No problem. A contraction.

    But when typing "y'all" on, say, an Internet forum page it is the height of rape against the English language and must be denounced by all.

    Do New Yorkers type "youse" or "joik"?

    Do Bostonians type "khakis" (you know, those metal objects that turn your motorized vehicle's ignition on)?

    Do Londoners (particularly from the East End) type "Arry" (as in Prince Harry) or "Allo" (Limey greeting, sans the 'h' at start of the word)?


    Also, why is the plural of "y'all" commonly spoken as "all y'all" south of the Mason-Dixon Line? Isn't "y'all" itself sufficient?

    madhttr likes this.
  12. ktnatalk

    ktnatalk Sailor. Shipmate. Parent.

    Feb 20, 2016
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    Different strokes for different folks.