It’s easy for mistakes to slip into your business writing when you use fancy-sounding phrases without really knowing what you’re saying. Someone else will know, and the actual meaning can completely change the intent of your writing.
Content Equals Money founder Amie Marse put together a list of tricky words to use with care in your business writing.
- Continual/continuous. The first means always occurring, while the second means never-ending.
- i.e./e.g. These Latin abbreviations are often misused: “i.e.” stands for “id est,” “that is,” while “e.g.” stands for “exempli gratia,” “for example.”
- Elicit/illicit. “Elicit” means to draw a response, while “illicit” means forbidden by laws or custom.
- Alternately/alternatively. The former means by taking turns; the latter, having more than one option.
- Refute/rebut. To refute is to disprove something, while to rebut is to disagree. In a debate, the participants are given time for a rebuttal, not a refutation.
- Farther/further. “Farther” refers to distance; “further” refers to time.
- Alright/all right. The proper spelling is “all right.”
- Uninterested/disinterested. The former means not interested at all; the latter means neutral.
- Who’s/whose. “Who’s” is a contraction of “who is.” Reread your sentence: If “who is” doesn’t make sense, the word you need is “whose.”
- Than/then. Use “than” when making comparisons (“Results are better than last year”). “Then” is used to express a conclusion.
Knowing how to use words properly will improve your business writing and make it more effective. Use tricky phrases with care.
— Adapted from “Top 10 Grammar Tips for Every Business,” Amie Marse, B2B Insights.
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