Robin’s blog: My three favorite misused words

Misused words can be charming in the right context. I have a friend who says “it’s not death-defying” when she means “it’s not earth shaking,” as in perhaps having picked up the wrong item at the store. It always makes me laugh.

Unfortunately teachers are usually less amused by these kinds of errors. Additionally they have the job to see that you know right from wrong in language. So for those reasons alone using the right word matters.

It can also matter – in school or out – when the error causes your communication to derail. You might think, “They knew what I meant,” but that little glitch can make readers have to stop and translate. It can slow readers down, be irritating, and sometimes even lead to complete breakdown, e.g. “I have no idea what the writer means here!” There’s not much point in writing if the writing doesn’t communicate.

Let’s look at a few of the words mostly commonly misused, based at least on what I’ve seen. I will list my three favorites and continue the list in future blogs.

If you know all these, congratulate yourself. But you can then search the web on this topic to challenge yourself, as some people have put together huge lists of words to watch out for.

A word to the wise (that you may already know): As you are writing, if you’re not sure of the word you want to use, just type it into Google and get the definition, with the proper spelling as a bonus. I’ve been amazed how wrong I can spell a word and Google still understands what I want! You can do the same thing with a phrase and, if you have it wrong, Google will tell you the more customary usage.

With no further ado, here are my top three for now, with the necessary notes:

1) Irregardless, regardless and irrespective. This is an oldie but goodie. Irregardless is not a word. I think it came about through confusion between regardless and irrespective, two words whose meaning is close. The ir prefix negates the word – so regardless and irrespective make sense, and irregardless doesn’t.

2) Moot and mute.  A point not relevant to the matter at hand is called moot (said like a cow’s “moo” with a T on the end), meaning it needn’t be spoken of in the current discussion. Mute, of course, means unable to speak. Between the pronunciation question and the faint resemblance in meanings, you can see where the confusion arises.

3) In view of and in lieu of.  In view of means taking into consideration, in lieu of means in place of. The latter is frequently seen in phrases like “In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate contributions to….” In view of actually means the opposite – “In view of the expense of flowers, I decided to donate the money to a college.” Lieu is the French word for place – that’s a major clue.

In general, if you want to remember these and not to have to look them up each time, but have trouble, the good old trick is to pick some little phrase, game, similarity, saying, etc. that for you hints at or makes entirely clear the differences.

Copyright 2013  In Writing, LLC  All Rights Reserved

WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien