Comedian Norm Crosby made a living out of butchering the English language for laughs.
Example: “Regular coffee gives me headaches, so now I drink it decapitated.”
It’s no laughing matter, though, when your credibility plummets because you use the wrong word in a critical communication, and habitual errors can hobble your career.
Here are some commonly misused words and how to use them:
• Phenomenon vs. phenomena. Phenomenon is singular, phenomena plural, yet we hear these words misused all the time. Correct: “The short sale is a phenomenon that emerged from the real estate crash.” “We’re not likely to see phenomena like these again in decades.”
• Imply vs. infer. These words are not interchangeable. Only the sender of a message can imply something and only the receiver can infer something. Correct: “Your message implies that you think we’re making a mistake.” “I inferred from your message that you think we’re making a mistake.”
• Disinterested vs. uninterested. Uninterested means not interested. Disinterested means impartial. Correct: “We should seek impartial feedback from a disinterested party.”
— Adapted from 100 Words Almost Everyone Confuses and Misuses, Editors of the American Heritage Dictionary, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
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