Commonly Misused Words and Phrases – Part 1

We all want to feel confident when speaking. Whether it’s a one-on-one conversation, a presentation to a small group, or a speech to a large audience, knowing that we are communicating as effectively as possible is important.

It not only ensures we are getting our message across, but it is a part of being confident in how we present ourselves to the world, just as much as the clothes we choose to wear.

An important part of creating a high level of confidence is found in our word choices. There are a great many words and phrases in the English language that are easily mispronounced and/or confused with similar-sounding words or with words that have a similar meaning.

Getting these right when we talk is like the polish we use to shine our shoes. It’s that extra “something” that makes people take note of you. In this two-art series, we’ll take a look at a dozen of the most commonly misused words and phrases.

  1. 1. Get your goat/goad. The goat in this phrase is a metaphor for a peaceful state of mind. When someone irritates you, we say they get your goat. The word goat is often mispronounced as goad.
  2. 2. For all intents and purposes/intensive purposes. The correct phrase is “intents and purposes.” It is sometimes misheard and repeated as “intensive purposes.”
  3. 3. Few/less. Use the word few when the item can be counted, e.g. He has 25 jelly beans. Use less when the exact amount is not known or can’t be easily measured, e.g. She has less milk than her sister.
  4. 4. Who/whom. If you can replace the word with ‘he’ or ‘she,’ who is the correct choice. If you can replace it with ‘him’ or ‘her,’ use whom. To make it a little easier, associate the “m” in “him” with the “m” in “whom.” The more you do it, the easier it will become.
  5. 5. Hang/hung/hanged. Hang and hung refer to placement or position of something as in “Will you hang the picture on the wall” and “She hung the picture on the wall” or The picture hung on the wall.” They are present and past tense, respectively. Hanged, however, refers specifically to executing someone by hanging, i.e. “An innocent man was hanged that day.”
  6. 6. Regardless/irregardless. Irregardless is considered a non-standard use of the word regardless. Those in the know eschew it in favor of the simple and correct “regardless.” Always use the latter and you’ll always be correct, regardless of what others say about “irregardless.”

There you have it! Six of the top dozen words and phrases that are commonly misused. I’ll be covering the other half dozen in Part 2.

Meanwhile, let me know what gets your goat when other people speak.

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