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More misused words and phrases

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in Workplace Communication

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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