Misusing words? Inconceivable!
by Abby Wilkerson
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” ~Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
There is no quicker way to make your audience realize that you are not the expert you claim to be than by misusing words and phrases. Misused words and phrases distract your audience from what you really have to say – the more verbal frosting you pile onto your writing, the harder it is find any real substance. And besides damaging your credibility, it can completely change the meaning of the sentence.
Sadly, there are lists upon lists of misused words and phrases. Since we can’t cover all of them in a column called “Quick and Skinny,” here are the three that irritate me the most:
1. Literally – “I’m literally starving to death. I’m literally going to eat my arm.”
No. Most likely you’re not and, chances are, you won’t. Literally means exactly what you say (no metaphors or analogies). Everything else is figurative.
Not even a word. Use regardless or irrespective.
3. For all intents and purposes
I admit, I just learned this one the other day. It’s often mis-spoken as “all intensive purposes.” I just learned that it’s not “for all tenths and purposes.” It means in every practical sense and originates in English law.
Abby Wilkerson is the Copywriter and Public Relations