Advice on Commonly Misused Words and Phrases
I was having lunch with a friend at a restaurant the other day, regaling her with stories about the enormity of my writing success. Suddenly, she blurts, “Lynn, you might be a writer, but if you think you always use words and phrases right, you have another think coming.”
“Thing coming, Annie, the phrase is “another thing coming.” You just don’t understand the enormity of my grasp of the English language. Besides, I would be a real travesty of a writer if I were using words and phrases wrong.”
“No, Lynn, Cambridge Dictionary says that the phrase is “think coming” and enormity means bad, not big. As far as you being a travesty of a writer, you might be right: a “travesty of a writer” would mean you are a poor imitation of a writer, which would indeed be a real tragedy.”
“Oh, no! Do you think using words incorrectly will decimate my writing? That would make me nauseous?”
“Well, the word decimate means to reduce something by one-tenth and considering the already-low caliber of your writing, it shouldn’t hurt you at all. Also, the word nauseous means to make someone else sick; using the wrong word can have that affect sometimes.”
“You’re right, Annie! I am going to continue writing, irregardless of my habit of using the wrong word.”
My friend stared at me in silence before leaving the table and sticking me with the check. It was then I realized that “irregardless” wasn’t a word either. In that moment, I realized that I needed to hone in on the correct usage of some common words. Aw dang, I did it again – to hone means to sharpen. What I should say is that I need to home in, or to focus on, the correct usage of the English language.
Have You Ever Made Yourself Look Silly by Using these Words Incorrectly? I have!
Flammable and inflammable are synonyms for something that can easily go up in flames (much like my writing career)
Adverse is bad or harmful; averse means against (I am averse to adverse writing)
Complement means to complete or make perfect; a compliment is a nice thing to hear (Annie’s attempts to complement my writing were thoughtful, but she could have given me a couple of compliment too)
Uninterested means you don’t care; disinterested means you don’t have a stake or a claim (You can ignore this if you are uninterested in proper grammar, or are disinterested in a writing career)
Tortuous is long and complicated; it has nothing to do with torture (Although writing tortuous articles can be sheer torture)
All together is things or people in a group; altogether means entirety (“Let’s say it all together: We are altogether pleased to know the difference between these two words.”)
Founder means to sink below the surface of water, or by extension, to fail miserably. Flounder means to move clumsily or with confusion (My dance moves flounder while my writing career founders)
If you need help finding the right words, contact a WriterAccess writer. WA knows how to find and vet writing professionals who understand the correct definition of words and how to use them.
Lynn H has been a professional writer, providing exceptional content online and offline, for nearly 20 years. In that time, she has penned thousands of articles for doctors, universities, researchers, small businesses, nursing organizations, sole proprietors and more. She writes everything from blogs to white papers; her specialty is putting complex scientific concepts in simple terms. She specializes in medical writing, creating informative and engaging content for professionals in medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, medical manufacturing, chiropractics, optometry, emergency care, plastic surgery and others.