Grammar Common Spelling Mistakes 2019-04-09 00:00

30 Words You Are Probably Getting Wrong!


We all have our pet peeves, but if words are your thing, someone who inadvertently butchers their meaning rubs you the wrong way. You may, however, be guilty of inadvertently butchering words yourself.

Here are 30 words you are probably getting wrong.

  1. The list
  2. Final thoughts

The list

1. Disinterested

You want a disinterested judge assigned to your case because she will be impartial and neutral. You don't want an uninterested judge who couldn’t care less and falls asleep during your testimony.

2. Regardless

In case you didn’t know, "irregardless" is not a real word. Just saying.

3. Literally

Some people literally don’t know what this word means. Literally, in a literal sense, means adhering to fact and free from exaggeration. The word you want when exaggerating an anecdote is virtually.

4. A lot, all right

Be careful to use these as two-word constructions. "Alot" is not a real word. Neither is "alright," although it's so commonly used now that you'd be forgiven for not knowing it!

5. Bemused

So you’re amused, but in a detached way? You’re not bemused then. When people are bemused, they are bewildered or confused. You can be slightly amused by your dog’s antics, but bemused by his frequent urination of your favorite carpet.

6. Travesty

A travesty is "a debased, distorted, or grossly inferior imitation" per Merriam-Webster. Like when someone does a burlesque imitation of something or someone grotesquely. It is not a tragedy, however.

7. Nonplussed

If you think you’re nonplussed by your friend’s assertion he is the best soccer player on the team, you probably feel unimpressed, right? Wrong. Nonplussed means you’re so bewildered or stunned that you don’t know how to act.

8. Alibi

Many people view an alibi as an excuse, which is much more general than the word’s true meaning. An alibi means you have irrefutable proof you were elsewhere.

9. Alternatives

If you have alternatives, you have two options. Period. If you have over two options, they are a range of choices. So, if you have alternative facts, you can either believe Kellyanne Conway’s version or you can believe the truth.

10. Flagrant

If you have a flagrant disregard for authority, this is a serious breach of law. So maybe you have a blatant disregard instead, which means without care or brazen.

11. Nauseous

Nauseous is not the feeling you get when your stomach climbs your throat. It’s whatever caused you to feel nausea or disgust, like the nauseous smell of a rotting corpse. Now that will make you nauseated.

12. Supposably

Are you supposably using this word correctly? If you mean "according to what many believe," you actually need supposedly. If something is supposable, it’s conceivable.

13. Undoubtably

Another "not a real word" snafu. What you really need when your meaning is "without a shadow of a doubt" is undoubtedly or indubitably.

14. Inflammable

Did you buy your children inflammable pajamas? I wouldn’t recommend it. Inflammable means "combustible" as in it can catch on fire. Try finding nonflammable pajamas instead.

15. Entitled

Please stop asking people what the book they’re reading is entitled. The word entitled describes someone who feels or believes they’re better than someone else or deserve special treatment. Instead, ask what their book is titled.

16. Infamous

Many people use infamous for someone who is incredibly famous. But in fact, it means "famous for a negative reason." Thus, most politicians are infamous and movie stars are famous. Although stars can be infamous, too.

17. Poisonous

If something is poisonous, you shouldn’t eat it because it’s toxic and will seriously harm or kill you. However, if you run into a snake, it’s venomous, meaning something that will seriously harm or kill you if it bites or stings you.

18. Between

Let’s keep this a secret between the two of us. Because if there were more than two people or things, you would actually need the word among.

19. Capitol

Washington, DC is the capital of the United States. But Capitol Hill refers to the buildings that make up where Congress meets. So a capitol is a building for legislators.

20. Complement

You can compliment another person on an achievement or their outfit, but you can’t complement them. To complement is to add, enhance, or improve something.

21. Discrete

Too often, people use discrete when they actually mean discreet. Discrete means individual, distinct, or separate. Discreet means careful, cautious, or using good judgment.

22. Elicit

Did you want to get a response from someone? That’s hardly illicit, which means improper. Instead what you’re trying to do is elicit a response, which means to draw or coax out.

23. Continuous

Do you often get interrupted at work and lose your train of thought? If so, your work process is continual, which means something that starts and stops. But if the interruptions never stop, it’s a continuous (something that has no end) battle to stay focused.

24. Further

Further refers to a figurative distance such as "How much further do my sore legs have to go before they fall off?" On the other hand, you may want to know how much farther (literal, physical distance) it is to the finish line, so you can collapse.

25. Viable

Viable is sometimes confused with or used interchangeably with feasible which means an action that is possible. Viable refers to something capable of surviving, which is quite a different proposition altogether.

26. Less

Use less when you refer to quantities because it means "a smaller amount." Use fewer when you’re comparing numbers. For example, use less sugar when you are baking (unless you want to count the sugar granules) but use fewer eggs. If you can count it, use fewer; if you can't count it, use less.

27. Regrettable

Is it regretful or regrettable? They’re not interchangeable. Regretful means you’re full of regret, but if something is regrettable, it’s unfortunate or deplorable. So maybe you’re regretful over your regrettable behavior last weekend.

28. Crescendo

A crescendo is a music piece that should be played with increasing volume. It does not mean a climax. As The Guardian says, "Thus the cliché 'Rise to a crescendo' is nonsense."

29. Dilemma

Similar to alternative, if you’re faced with a dilemma, you have only two options to choose from, neither of which is advantageous. But if you have a problem, you could have many solutions from which to choose.

30. Gourmand

Never call a revered chef a gourmand. He or she is a gourmet of the best food and wine thanks to a refined, discriminating taste. A gourmand, on the other hand, is a glutton who wants all the finest things.

Final thoughts

Believe it or not, this is a small representation of commonly misused words. What are some other ones that drive you nuts? Let us know in the comments below.

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